2 landmark bills approved

[ manilastandardtoday.com ] March 19, 2010

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo has signed into law two landmark measures—one allowing 39 million Filipinos to acquire title to the land they have been occupying for at least 10 years, and another empowering the Bureau of Internal Revenue to exchange information with its foreign counterparts to help fight international tax evasion.

Mrs. Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 10023, or the Free Patent Act that eases the requirements and procedures in titling residential land.

Landowners could only acquire the title to their land through a court proceeding before the new law was signed. Now they may apply with the Environment Department to acquire a title to it through a free patent.

The new law cut down the period of eligibility for titling to 10 years from 30, but only alienable land not needed for public service or public use may be given a free patent.

The land should not exceed 200 square meters if it is in a highly urbanized city, 500 meters in other cities, 750 meters in first- and second-class municipalities, and 1,000 meters in third-class municipalities.

Local government units may also apply for a free patent for public land being used for public schools, municipal halls, public plazas or parks, and other government institutions for public use.

Meanwhile, Republic Act 10021 allows Internal Revenue to exchange tax information to “pursue a tax environment that contributes in sustaining a favorable international investment climate and instills confidence in the adequacy and capacity of the country’s tax administration.

“The government shall comply with internationally-agreed tax standards required for the exchange of tax information with its tax treaty partners to help combat international tax evasion that affect international trade and investment.”

RA 10021 amended some provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, and authorizes Internal Revenue to inquire into bank deposits and other information held by financial institutions to supply information to a requesting foreign tax authority.

It also allows requesting foreign tax authorities to study the income tax returns of taxpayers on the President’s order and on the recommendation of the Internal Revenue commissioner. Joyce Pangco Pañares

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