Tax perks for PWDs
Finally, more than a year after Revenue Regulation No. 5-2017 was signed, the Bureau of Internal Revenue issued early this week the rules implementing the tax perks due persons with disabilities, including their exemption from the 12-percent value-added tax.
Under the guidelines, qualified PWDs can claim a 20-percent discount from leisure and amusement facilities, including hotels, restaurants, theaters and cinemas. They can also avail themselves of discounts when buying their medication, and in all government and private hospitals and facilities offering dental and medical services. The discount applies as well to local air, sea and land transportation expenses, and to burial and funeral services, as long as the PWD’s beneficiaries can present the deceased’s death certificate and ID card.
The 20-percent discount will be applied to the amount after the 12-percent VAT has been deducted from it. Double discounts are not allowed, which means that PWDs who are also senior citizens can avail themselves of only one 20-percent discount in a transaction.
Under the Philippine Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, a P25,000 annual income tax deduction is given as well to PWD relatives within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, who are caring for and living with a PWD.
These are welcome benefits for PWDs who have long languished in the shadows, largely ignored by would-be employers, and neglected by a government that regards them as less than productive.
Disabled persons—those whose abilities are restricted because of a mental, physical, or sensory impairment—comprise 1.57 percent of the Philippine population, per the 2010 census. Considered a minority, PWDs continue to be hampered by inaccessible public transport and healthcare systems, limited livelihood and education opportunities, and poverty. In fact, many PWDs belong to the poorest sector; poverty and disability severely limit their entry into formal employment.
Only about 10-30 percent of employable PWDs in the country are engaged in regularly paid work, according to separate reports released by the National Statistics Office and the Asian Development Bank in 2005. A big chunk—50 percent—of them work in the informal sector, and the rest are dependent on family members and government aid.
But it is society’s generally dismissive attitude and discrimination against them that remain the PWDs’ biggest heartbreak. Indeed, it is the state itself that should start initiatives to lift PWDs from their sorry plight. Local government units, for one, can offer training programs to prepare them for employment, and allocate jobs for them in government agencies. Attractive incentives may also be offered to companies and private entities that hire them.
Meanwhile, NGOs and religious groups can help strengthen the PWDs’ “labor market value” by providing them with training on technical skills, work ethics, and socialization. The media can exercise self-regulation and come up with guidelines on the use of sensitive language when describing PWDs in their reports, to avoid perpetuating stereotypes that PWDs are “helpless and useless invalids” who are “objects of pity.” TV networks can provide sign language interpreters when covering special events.
The government must enforce PWD-friendly building standards that would make sure establishments have the required ramps, functioning elevators and other facilities that make them accessible to PWDs. As well, public and private schools should invest in braille textbooks, sign language teachers and accessible classrooms to make education an opportunity open to all.
A general change in attitude is what is urgently needed, especially among family members and caregivers of PWDs. Attempts to include PWDs in national census surveys have not been wholly successful precisely because some people are hesitant to admit that they have PWDs in the family. But how can the government gauge the extent of the problem that PWDs face without the right numbers, and without the data on their health and education needs?
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