The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) have issued separate advisories to clarify the tax memo that requires Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) election candidates to register and pay a fee of P500.

The tax memo, which was released by the BIR on September 18, 2023, sparked confusion and concern among the candidates, especially the SK aspirants who may not have the financial capacity to comply.

On September 21, 2023, Deputy Minority Leader Cong. Paul Daza and Bohol First District Cong. Edgar Chatto received a copy of the advisory from COMELEC chair George Garcia, who stated that the BIR registration and payment are not mandatory for the filing of Certificate of Candidacy (COC) and are not prerequisites for continuing as a candidate.

Daza had raised the issue during the budget plenary on September 20, 2023, questioning the legality and constitutionality of the tax memo. He cited Article 5, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, which says “No literacy, property or any substantive requirement shall be imposed in the exercise of suffrage”.

Chatto had also challenged the tax memo and urged the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), COMELEC and BIR to review it. He said that some candidates, especially SKs, had manifested their intention to withdraw because of this additional requirement. He added that many candidates may even be indigents.

COMELEC reminded that the Supreme Court has ruled that no property or financial requirement shall be imposed as qualifications for candidates. 

It said that requiring candidates to pay a registration fee with the BIR, with a concomitant penalty for non-compliance, is tantamount to imposing a financial requirement for running for a public office.

On September 22, 2023, the BIR issued Memorandum Circular 97-2023 to explain that BIR registration and payment of registration fee are indeed not prerequisites for filing a COC for any national or local elections, including Barangay or SK elections.

It said that a candidate may, however, register with the BIR as a taxpayer under Executive Order 98 using BIR Form No. 1904 to get a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) which he or she may use in government transactions. 

He or she shall not be required to pay the annual registration fee, the memo also read.