APEC Finance Ministers highlight digitalization as key driver of efficient tax collection

Finance ministers from across 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member economies convened in Bangkok, Thailand on October 19-20, 2022 for the 29th APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting. Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno represented the Philippines in the APEC-FMM.

Chaired by Finance Minister of Thailand Arkhom Termpittayapaisith, the gathering of finance ministers explored areas in fiscal policies, taxation regimes, redistribution programs, investment incentives, digital leverage, and sustainable development that would promote digitalization and sustainability as drivers for economic growth.

The sessions highlighted sustainable finance and digitalization as key drivers of growth in a globalized environment.

In his intervention, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that “the digitalization of tax administration is a priority goal of the Philippine government. The operationalization of the initiatives couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The COVID-19 pandemic presented an opportunity for the Philippines to quicken improvements to revenue agencies’ online filing and payment systems, which helped maintain and even improve tax collections amid the crisis.

According to Secretary Diokno, the transition to digital payment systems saw a 5 percent increase in taxpayers and an 84 percent increase in electronic payments in 2021.

Revenue collections expanded by 5.2 percent year-on-year (YoY) and even went beyond the government’s target by over 4 percent.

The digitalization of both the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) operations have made it possible for efficient tax administration through electronic means.

The move resulted in the steady inflow of revenues that gave the government the fiscal space it needed to orchestrate COVID-19 response programs.

The government is seeing sustained positive developments in its latest collection report. Collections from January to August 2022 grew by 18 percent compared to the same period in 2021, which is 7 percent higher than the expected target. The increase has caused the government’s primary deficit for the period to drop by more than 26 percent YoY.