Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
The Philippines' chief tax collector is constantly thinking about targets. Sometimes she picks up an assault rifle and hits them.
The Philippines' chief tax collector is constantly thinking about targets. Sometimes she picks up an assault rifle and hits them.

Tax chief aims to collect from Filipino dodgers

Kim Henares was appointed commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) because president Benigno Aquino wanted a tough tax sheriff - and he got one.

MANILA // The Philippines' chief tax collector is constantly thinking about targets. Sometimes she picks up an assault rifle and hits them.

In July 2010, the newly elected president, Benigno Aquino, made Kim Henares commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) because he wanted a tough tax sheriff - and he got one who's taking aim at the country's legion of tax cheats.

Mr Aquino gave Ms Henares presidential guards, but the lawyer and accountant said: "I should know how to shoot their guns, just in case".

Her no-nonsense approach appears to be helping pull in more tax, which is pivotal to meeting a government goal - getting rating agencies to award the Philippines investment-grade status.

Historically, tax collection has sometimes been a "let's make a deal" game between taxpayers and bribable officials.

Ms Henares, 52, BIR's deputy commissioner from 2003 to 2005, has been chasing evaders and crooked bureaucrats to clean up the image of the bureau, perceived to be one of the country's most corrupt institutions.

She is also trying to make taxpaying synonymous with patriotism. The chief, who amended BIR's vision statement to call it a partner in nation-building, makes sure her staff attend weekly flag-raising ceremonies. She often wears a T-shirt sporting BIR's 2012 slogan: "I love Philippines. I pay taxes."

Her approach isn't just touchy-feely.

"We are changing ourselves from being primarily a customer service institution to a law enforcement institution," said Ms Henares. "We were collecting taxes at the pace the taxpayer dictates."

Now, the bureau, which collects nearly 70 per cent of all government revenue, is taking the initiative, and it wants taxpayers to be afraid of ignoring laws. "If you look at the psyche of the Filipino, if you do not put fear in them they will not obey," she said.

Ms Henares, when promoted, revived a BIR campaign to catch cheats and promised no let-up.

She quickly filed her first case, against a pawnshop chain owner who bought a Lamborghini for 26 million pesos (Dh10.8m) during a year in which he and his wife allegedly did not pay tax. The case is pending in a tax-appeal court, with the accused out on bail.

The cases filed at the department of justice can lead to arrests, but only a court can convict. To date, only five tax cheats have been convicted.

While Henares may have to wait years to get her first criminal conviction, she has filed 135 evasion cases so far. They include a 120 million peso suit against an impeached supreme court chief justice and a 5.5 billion peso claim against a billionaire businessman.

"I take pride in all the cases we file, they are fully backed by data and evidence," said Ms Henares.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National