New Philippines tax chief says she'll collect Marcos estate tax, estimated over $5b

The Marcos estate taxes were previously assessed at 23 billion pesos. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The Philippines' incoming tax agency chief said on Wednesday (June 22) she would collect the estate tax due from the family of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr, taking on an issue that has hounded the next leader.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue will carry out its mandate to collect, if the amount is "final and executory", tax chief-designate Lilia Guillermo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

Ms Guillermo, who was appointed by Mr Marcos to serve in his incoming administration, said there was no doubt that the agency would collect the controversial tax liability.

However, she needs to see the documents first and find out for certain if the amount due is indeed 200 billion pesos (S$5.1 billion).

The Marcos estate taxes were previously assessed at 23 billion pesos, but the liability had since ballooned to over 200 billion pesos due to penalties and taxes, Rappler reported in March.

Mr Marcos's camp said during his presidential campaign that the issue "is still pending in court", and that the fair tax base for computing the liability arising from the late dictator's estate could not be ascertained.

But a Supreme Court document showed the estate tax ruling became final in 1999, ABS-CBN reported.

Ms Guillermo, a central bank assistant governor who previously served in the internal revenue bureau for 30 years, was nominated to head the tax agency on the recommendation of incoming Finance Secretary and outgoing central bank chief Benjamin Diokno.

Before accepting the nomination, she asked Mr Diokno about the pending tax issue and his advice was to "leave it to the court", she said.

Ms Guillermo will assume her post on June 30.

"Can you be a role model? The Marcoses paid their taxes because they complied with the law. It came from the Supreme Court, and it's final and executory. That's what I would tell him. But I should have the correct data," she said of the incoming president.

Past tax chiefs have tried to collect the liabilities, with the latest written demand sent to the Marcos heirs in December.

Mr Marcos' incoming government is facing the challenge of raising revenues to pay debt that ballooned to a record during the pandemic.

The tax agency will prioritise digitalization to boost collection, Ms Guillermo said.

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