eBIRForms: A Burden to Filipino Taxpayers

Tax collection – the Dept of Finance (DOF) is one of the most important units in the government because this is the unit that collects taxes which is then used to fund government projects and operations. Yet DOF has two of the most bureaucratic units in the government – the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

Take filing and payment of taxes as an example, this process is still using the archaic method of using papers and pens to process tax payments. They have some semblance of computerization but the system is poorly done. An example is the taxpayer-facing system called eBIRForms – this system is the worst application I have ever used in my life, it’s like it’s done by amateurs – it works but it is so tedious to use even for long-time computer users.

Another example is their Alphalist program, telling your users to hunt for files inside your computer, and then attach it via email to BIR as a means of submitting tax returns! How absurd! Obviously, the IT folks in BIR have never heard of a proper API.

Here is a BIR full-page ad that they’ve posted on major newspapers about the app.

eBIRForms ad placement by the BIR

The says “Needs ActiveX components via Internet Explorer 9 or 10”! eBIRForms was built using a programming language that is no longer supported as of 2005 — Visual Basic. It still uses ActiveX, a technology full of security risks. Obviously, it only works in Windows so the rest of the population that uses Mac will have to borrow PCs. It is now 2021 and they’re using this archaic program.

It is bureaucracy when your government is adding a burden to the taxpayer, instead of easing tax collection.

It is bureaucracy when ordinary taxpayers need to pay other people to navigate the sloppy tax collection system.

What the government should do is hire professional developers to build a secure, robust system that will simplify the tax collection in order to ensure that taxes are collected efficiently with minimum disruption for both the taxpayer and the BIR.

Recommendation: build a cloud-based technology stack that is accessible on all browsers – Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Brave so that it can be used on all platforms (desktop and mobile). The server-side code can be built using the many possible solutions available today (Java/Python/JS/Go + paired with optimum persistent storage solution).