By Charlie V. Manalo
08/10/2009 [ tribune.net.ph ]
The Commission on Audit (CoA) yesterday bared the Pasay City government is losing at least P47.4 million annually in taxes through anomalous manipulation of values of prime real estate properties.
According to CoA, the figure only represents an estimated under taxation for a prime property covering a shopping mall firm alone.
In a financial audit of the city government’s books for 2008, CoA stumbled upon the anomalous under assessment of real estate values of eight pieces of real estate properties registered under SM Property which operates big shopping malls all over the country.
The city assessor’s office assessed the lots totalling 195,476 square meters at P2,100,225,780 only but a re-assessment made by CoA showed it should be placed at P2,930,140,000.
Danilo Rodriguez, CoA supervising auditor, explained that as a result of the low assessment made by the city government an under collection of some P47.4 million was made.
"Weak input controls in the Real Property Tax Assessment System resulted in property valuation inconsistent with the amended assessment and market value per City Ordinance No. 2415 series of 2002," the CoA report said.
It added: "This resulted in errors in the assessment of the value of the property and consequent computation of taxes. Understatement in income of P47,495,725.57 was discovered for the eight Real Property Units sampled in the audit."
State auditors noted the unit values of property are "manually inputted" in the Real Property Tax Assessment System of the City, thus this has "exposed" the system to data manipulation.
"Since there were errors in the unit values which is the basis in the assessment of the market value of the property and consequent computation of the corresponding taxes, the income collected was understated by P47.4 million," the audit report said.
Apparently suspecting more irregularities in the assessment of real estate properties, CoA auditors asked the city government to re-evaluate the property valuation of real properties in the city "to establish the under-assessment and under-payment of taxes."
In the same report, CoA scolded the city government for failing to register 68 vehicles with the Land Transportation Office and paying penalties for late registration of 30 more.
State auditors said this lapse on the part of local authorities had exposed the city government to possible liabilities in cases of accident or loss of the vehicles.
To solve the problem, CoA asked Mayor Wenceslao Trinidad to consider a proposal that would impose on the defaulting end-user the penalties to be paid for late registration of vehicles "to force them to be responsible in monitoring the registration dates of their service vehicles."