A lot of foreigners will mention the “skin tax” when talking about the Philippines. What they mean when they say “skin tax” is when Filipinos overcharge them for products or services based solely on the color of their skin. In other words, when the Filipino taxi driver or shop owner sees a white or black guy, instantly the price goes up, because it is a foreigner.
Myself, I have never really worried much about any skin tax, because such things happen to me only rarely, and usually we are talking very small amounts. Yes, when somebody overcharges me, it does bother me, but I don’t make a big deal or get too worked up for something tiny like that. But, like I said, I find that it is very rare anyway. Especially since I can speak the language, these folks quickly realize that I am not a tourist, and they tend to not try to take advantage of me.
However, did you know that the Philippine Government is now considering implementing a real, official skin tax? Not for all of us foreigners, but the government may impose a tax on entertainers who come and perform in the Philippines, if they are foreigners. This whole idea is being pushed by a number of Filipino entertainers, being lead, seemingly, by Kuh Ledesma and Ogie Alcasid both of whom are singers here in the Philippines. The whole idea pushed by these folks is that these foreign entertainers are eating into the revenues of Filipino performers and must be stopped.
According to reports that I have seen, the big push came because a lot of foreign acts are coming to perform in the Philippines in February 2011. Some of the coming performers are Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson and other bands, many of whom I have not heard of. Probably I don’t know the acts because they are from the younger generation and I don’t follow them. Also, Justin Beiber is coming to the Philippines in a few months as well. According to Filipino artists, February is the month that should be reserved for only Filipino acts, and they say that traditionally foreign acts do not come to the Philippines in February. These Filipino performers go on to say that with Valentine’s Day in February, it is a time when they can make good money giving concerts or other performances and appearances, but with these foreigners coming to the country, their revenues will be down.
Many of these foreign acts sell out quickly. Taylor Swift’s concert sold out quickly, and no seats are available. They say that while Justin Beiber’s tickets only recently went on sale, sales for his concert are swift. Many of these Filipino acts are having trouble selling out the seats for their concerts. So, because of this, they reason, the foreign acts should be taxed more. In fact, there is another part of the proposal that I did not mention yet. Those pushing this not only want the foreigners to be taxed at higher rates than they are now, but Filipino acts should have ZERO tax on them! They say that this will preserve the culture and artistry of the Philippines.
The truth is, Filipinos are voting with their wallets on this. If many of these Filipino acts cannot attract enough audience that means that the Filipino people would prefer to spend their money for acts like Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber. Hey, I am not really a fan of either of the two, but I will say that they are both powerhouses in the music industry right now, and a lot of Filipinos want to go listen to them sing. To me, this would indicate that these Filipino entertainers need to update their acts, improve what they are offering to the public, and do so quickly. That is what competition is all about. If the public would rather pay to see Taylor Swift, then Kuh Ledesma needs to improve what she is offering and more people will go to see her instead.
The way I see it, it would seem that some people will be taxed solely based on the color of their skin, or the color of their passport. That, in my opinion is not right. I read that right now the Philippine Government is studying to see if they can legally do this, given their WTO obligations. Well, we will see what happens on that, but even if it can legally be done, that does not mean that it is moral or right. In fact, implementing a legal skin tax will only serve to reinforce those doing these things illegally like taxi drivers and store vendors. If they government can do it, why can’t they, after all?
Another thought that comes to my mind about this has to do with citizenship. A lot of Filipino artists are dual citizens, or are only citizens of a foreign country like the USA. What tax rate will a dual citizen pay? They are holders of foreign citizenship, after all. What about this… think about what would happen if the Black Eyed Peas, an American hip-hop band, come and do a concert in the Philippines. One of the members of the band, “apl.d.ap”, is a Filipino from Pampanga. The other members of the band are not Filipino. Will they pay the “foreigner rate” or the “Filipino rate?” What about if Journey comes to have a concert here? The lead singer is Arnel Pineda, a Filipino. What tax rate do they pay?
To me, this whole issue is way off base. Everybody should pay the same tax rate, regardless of race or citizenship. What do you think?