MANILA -- The government hopes to recover an estimated 250 billion pesos ($5.53 billion) lost yearly to tax evasion by focusing on tax cheats among the self-employed as well as collecting unpaid inheritance taxes, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Wednesday.

The country is striving to raise revenues to reduce its budget deficit without imposing new taxes. It targets to maintain for 2010 last year's budget deficit of 3.9 percent of gross domestic product and to pare it down to two percent by 2013.

The losses due to tax evasion are equal to 77 percent of the anticipated 325 billion pesos ($7.4 bllion) budget deficit to be incurred this year.

Purisima said 82 percent of the 136 billion pesos ($3 billion) in personal income taxes collected in 2009 came from fixed income earners, while only 17 percent came from the self-employed.

Self-employed persons include businessmen, doctors, vendors or taxi drivers.

With an estimated 1.4 million registered self-employed Filipinos, he said if self-employed individuals can be convinced to increase their tax payment by 100,000 pesos ($2,213) each, that would translate to 140 billion pesos ($3 billion) in increased collection.

Officials have been filing tax evasion charges against allegedly erring businessmen, and Purisima said he hopes to see conviction to show that government means business.

Estate tax collection in the country is also pitiful at less than a billion pesos ($22.14 million) a year, Purisima added.

"If we succeed in breaking all these layers of protection that lawyers designed to avoid estate taxes then I'm sure, just with one estate tax case, that number can more than double," he said, urging the banking system not to connive tax evaders.

The Aquino administration has said it first wants to fix tax leakages before implementing new taxes. Purisima said he would support a review and restructuring of so-called sin taxes on cigarettes and liquor but the government was "not in a position to propose that over the next 12 months." (AP)