House Oks Salceda measure exempting poll workers’ honoraria from income tax

THE House of Representatives has approved on second reading a measure that exempts compensations to election servers, such as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and other poll watchers – most of whom are public school teachers – from income tax and other withholding taxes.

House Bill No. 9652, sponsored by Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, chair of the House ways and means, seeks to amend the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 to exclude election-related honoraria and allowances from the computation of gross income.

The bill would allow teachers, whom Salceda referred to as ‘democracy frontliners” to fully enjoy the amount of their honoraria or compensation paid to them, and recognize their notable service even in hazardous environments during election seasons.

Salceda said the measure should be fast-tracked in time for the 2022 elections.

“Considering both the risks election workers take, the relatively small compensation for such an important function, and the reasonableness of the tax foregone, this proposal does not pose serious threats to our revenue strength,” Salceda stressed.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) data indicate that taxes withheld from election servers during the 2019 National and Local Elections amounted to P56.8 million.

“The cost is very reasonable, at around PHP56.8 million. It’s worth apprehending just one big-time tax evader. It’s an easy choice,” Salceda said.

“Compensating our poll workers well is also one important key to keeping the 2022 elections fair. They will be taking other risks due to COVID-19 so they also need to be given due protection,” he added.

Salceda noted that poll workers need to be vaccinated and given some form of additional benefits should they get sick due to COVID-19 during the polls.

“We will still probably have some degree of COVID-19 infections during the elections. Although I expect herd immunity to have been attained by then, protection doesn’t hurt,” he surmised.

“Election workers our are democracy’s frontliners. Let’s pay them fairly and keep them safe.” Salceda concluded.