Lawyers won’t be forced to disclose fees, clients yet

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

THE Supreme Court (SC) blocked on Tuesday the implementation of a government circular requiring professionals, particularly lawyers, to publicly disclose their service fees and the identities of their clients.

However, only lawyers will benefit from the temporary restraining order (TRO) on Revenue Regulation 4-2014 of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) since the petitioner in this case is the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

The IBP said the circular titled "Guidelines and Policies for the Monitoring of Service Fees of Professionals" is unconstitutional for violating the separation of powers, as it "encroaches upon" the SC's exclusive authority "to regulate and prescribe rules for the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, legal practice and the legal profession."

The group feared of illegal restriction on the practice of law, saying the regulation "unduly limits a lawyer's liberty to ascertain the fair and reasonable value of his services according to standards defined by the Supreme Court."

Section 2 of R.R. 4-2014 requires all self-employed professionals to submit an affidavit indicating the rates, manner of billings and the factors they consider in determining their service fees upon registration on or before January 31 of each year and register the books of accounts and official appointment books which shall contain the names of the client and date or time of the meeting.

They must also issue a BIR-registered receipt showing a 100 percent discount in cases when no professional fees are charged.

"I have not seen the decision. I cannot comment on it," BIR Commissioner Kim Henares said in a text message to Sun.Star.

The BIR has been training its sights on lawyers, doctors and other self-employed individuals who allegedly failed to pay the correct taxes.

In a recent print advertisement, the agency revealed that only 451 out of 840 Makati-based lawyers filed their income tax returns (ITR) in 2012. A certain lawyer even paid just P329, the BIR said.

Makati is home to some of the country's biggest law firms such as Accra Law and SyCip, Salazar, Hernandez & Gatmaitan (Sunnex)

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