A freelancer filed her income tax return for the first time and it was horrible

Art by Sean Eidder

All I wanted to do was pay my taxes.

As a registered self-employed individual, I (sadly) have to file my own taxes. Being a fresh Com grad who hates numbers, I have naturally avoided anything tax-related until very recently, which, on hindsight, was not what I should’ve done.

After struggling for over a year of filing late, paying surcharges, and sometimes forgetting to file altogether, I finally decided to get it together and be a Responsible Adult. The first step? Face all my open cases and file my annual income tax return (ITR).

What was supposed to be a normal Thursday at the BIR turned into seven hours of waiting and frustration. Disclaimer: I’m aware that there are loads of factors (including my own ignorance) that contribute to the failure of our BIR system, so don’t take this as a rant post.   

 

DAY 1

8:15 a.m.

I drag my panicky butt to my Revenue District Office (RDO) first thing in the morning, with four copies of my ITR secured inside a manila envelope and a phone running on only 50% of battery. I spent last night manually filling up the form because the eBIR facility wasn’t working for me.

At the entrance is a giant tarp with “Salamat Sa ‘Yo” written in huge white block letters. When I take a closer look, I see that it has the deadline for ITR filing in smaller text at the bottom. GrApHiC dEsIGn iS mY pAsSioN.

 

8:20 a.m. : Filing attempt #1

After inquiring at the main desk, I’m directed to the second floor for the ITR filing. The line was much shorter than I thought it’d be, and I was convinced it’d be smooth sailing from there. Big mistake.

When I get to the counter, the official tells me that I can’t submit unless I’ve already filed online. I tell them that the eBIR program didn’t work for me; they tell me to go to the e-Lounge downstairs.

 

8:35 a.m. : Line #2

The “lounge” turns out to be a portion of the first floor with two computers (running on Windows XP, kill me now) manned by BIR officials in red shirts and OJTs in their crisp white uniforms. Seated before me in line are a number of senior citizens (who I assume didn’t know that filing online was a thing you had to do).

 

9:20 a.m. : Still in line; I don’t mind

One of the computers has a virus and can’t be used. The line has only moved one place since I got here. Ah, and the guard’s telling everyone to keep their valuables close because someone’s just lost her cellphone.  

 

9:30 a.m. : A miracle

After almost an hour of waiting and following up with the officials, a lady comes down and tells two of us to follow her to a temporary e-Lounge station. I am now next in line. Person-who-lost-her-cellphone is also in this room watching the CCTV footage from earlier. Everyone in this office has also stopped working to tune in. “Yung naka-red o!!” they shout, accusingly. In the end, the person realizes that she had her phone with her up until she left the filing room. No one stole it. I swear, this is like a noontime teleserye.  

 

10 a.m. : Line #3

The lady informs me that I need to update my Certificate of Registration (COR), but since I haven’t renewed my TIN for the year I need to do that first. She tells me to get a number for the Officer of the Day line downstairs to assess my late registration payment while she files my ITR.

They should’ve made the acronym OOTD, just for the giggles.

 

10:30 a.m. : Filing attempt #2

I head out to print the eBIR in the stall nearby. Still no confirmation email. Once that’s done, I go back to the office of the lady who filled it up and ask her if I can submit without the printed email. She says no, and that it could arrive within a span of an hour to a day (welp).

 

11 a.m. : Lining up again: attempt to renew COR

Since I need the confirmation email, I decide to renew my COR while waiting. This means  I have to get yet another number and line up again. Not sure if the folks at the front desk are laughing at me or pitying me at this point as they hand me another number along with the forms I need to fill up for renewal.   

I head to the second floor, and they hand me a list of all my open cases.

 

12:10 p.m. : “No lunch break” and line #4

Everyone who’s been to a government office knows to avoid the 12 n.n. mark. The NO LUNCH BREAK signs plastered all over the place are lies.

 

1:15 p.m. : FINALLY.

When the woman manning the Books counter finally comes back a little after 1 p.m., she’s all sassy like Roz from Monsters Inc. (“I’m watching you, Wazowski”). The system is messed up — two men compare their numbers and realize they have the same one??

 

2:00 p.m. : GET ME OUT OF HERE

When I finally get to the Books counter, Roz says that she can’t do anything for me because I don’t have books (which they could’ve told me at the information counter??). She tells me to line up at another officer’s desk. I’m about ready to run outside and never come back.

 

2:30 p.m. : Line #5

The BIR is now my home. The information desk is my office. The steel bench is my bed. Kuya guard is my best friend. The sound of numbers being called out is my new form of entertainment. And it turns out I have to file all of the returns I wasn’t able to file before coming to them for assessment with printed copies.

 

3:04 p.m. : I hate everything.

I leave the RDO having accomplished nothing.

 

DAY 2

10:30 a.m. : Line #3537234

I’m back, ready with a book and a fully charged phone. The line’s moving fast and I can almost taste the sweet success that comes with filing and being an Actual Adult.

 

10:40 a.m. : Defeat

The woman at the desk flips through my forms. She looks at me, annoyed, and tells me that my income bracket doesn’t require me to file in person. I leave, defeated.

 


Moral of the story, fellow freelancers: file your taxes before the deadline, and attend your RDO’s tax seminar on the scheduled date and time if you wanna live a carefree life unhounded by the thought that you might be doing something wrong tax-wise. Also, bureaucracy sucks when your system can’t handle it.

 

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