BUREAU of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Joel Tan-Torres projected that the agency "will most likely" meet its full year 2009 target of P742 billion, in large part because of the P61.5 billion collected in December.

Since the total BIR collection accounts for more than 60 percent of the country's revenues, the budget deficit, or the difference between government revenues and expenditures, could be less than P300 billion.

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Earlier, the international ratings agency, Moody's Investors Services, said the 2009 deficit may hit P291 billion or the equivalent of 3.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is the total of goods and services produced in the country. Right now, the Philippines' international credit rating, which is dependent on the country's ability to pay its foreign debts, has remained stable.

For a time, the Arroyo administration came close to attaining a balanced budget, with a deficit dropping from P210.7 billion in 2002 to P12.4 billion in 2007.

The government, however, found the need to step up spending in 2008 and 2009 to cushion the impact of the global financial crisis and the devastation of back-to-back typhoons in September and October 2009.

With no new revenue-generating taxes expected in the next semester of 2010, the BIR commissioner told Ermita he will try to meet his P830 billion target through improved collections.

Tan-Torres identified the following tax enhancement measures:

* Invigorating the Run After Tax Evaders (Rate) program; Integrated approach in administering the country's large tax payers' program;

* Close monitoring of recently enacted tax-reducing measures and several incentives programs; and Focus on the collection of big ticket items. (PIA)