1 Kazragami

Essay Tain

Why is Hamlet the most famous artwork of the past millennium? Is it a sexist text? Why does Hamlet speak in prose? Why must he die? Does Hamlet depict revenge, or rather justice? How did the death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, transform into a story about a son dealing with the death of a father? Did Shakespeare know Aristotle’s theory of tragedy? How did our literary icon, Shakespeare, see his literary icons, Homer and Virgil? Why is there so much comedy in Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy? Did Shakespeare believe in fate? How did he define virtue? What did he think about psychology? About politics? About philosophy? What was Shakespeare’s image of himself as an author? What can he, arguably the greatest writer of all time, teach us about our own writing? What was Shakespeare’s theory of literature?

These are some of the questions asked in this book, a collection of essays on Shakespeare’s Hamlet stemming from my time teaching the play every semester in my Why Shakespeare? courseat Harvard University. It was a real privilege to watch a series of bright young minds over the course of many years find their footing in Hamlet, and it taught me a lot about how Shakespeare’s tragedy works. The deal I struck with myself (to keep me on my toes) was that I would write a new essay about Hamlet every time I taught the play. These essays were meant to serve as models for the kind of essay I was asking my students to write, the kind of essay that advanced undergrads read and write – more rigorous than the puff pieces in the popular press, but riskier than the scholarship in most academic journals. While I later added scholarly outerwear to many of these pieces, they all began just like the essays I was asking my students to write – as short close readings with a reader and a text and an attempt to determine meaning.

The turn from text to context in recent scholarly books about Hamlet is somewhat quizzical since we still don’t have a strong sense of, to quote the title of John Dover Wilson’s 1935 book, What Happens in Hamlet. Is the ghost real? Is Hamlet mad, or just faking? Why does he delay? These are the kinds of questions students love to ask, but they haven’t been – can’t be – answered by reading the play in the context of its sources (recently addressed in Laurie Johnson’s The Tain of Hamlet [2013]), its multiple texts (analyzed by Paul Menzer in The Hamlets [2008] and Zachary Lesser in Hamlet after Q1 [2015]), the Protestant reformation (the focus of Stephen Greenblatt’s Hamlet in Purgatory [2001] and John E. Curran, Jr.’s Hamlet, Protestantism, and the Mourning of Contingency [2006]), Elizabethan political theory (see Margreta de Grazia, Hamlet without Hamlet [2007]), the play’s reception history (see David Bevington, Murder Most Foul: Hamlet through the Ages [2011]), its appropriation by modern philosophers (covered in Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster’s The Hamlet Doctrine [2013] and Andrew Cutrofello’s All for Nothing: Hamlet’s Negativity [2014]), or its recent global travels (addressed, for example, in Margaret Litvin's Hamlet’s Arab Journey [2011] and Dominic Dromgoole’s Hamlet Globe to Globe [2017]).

Examining the texts and traditions implicated by Hamlet is, of course, a worthy pursuit. I certainly consulted the above books for my essays, but the confidence that comes from introducing context obscures the sharp panic we feel when confronting Shakespeare’s text itself. There is a need to return to the text in a more immediate way to understand how Hamlet operates as a literary work, and how it can help us understand the world in which we live.

That latter goal, yes, clings nostalgically to the notion that literature can help us understand life. Questions about life send us to literature in search of answers. Those of us who love literature learn to ask and answer questions about it as we become professional literary scholars. But often our answers to the questions we ask of literature do not connect back up with the questions about life that sent us to literature in the first place. Those first-order questions are diluted and avoided in much scholarship, left unanswered. Thus, the goal of the essays collected in this book was to pose questions about Hamlet with the urgency of a Shakespeare lover and to answer them with the rigor of a Shakespeare scholar.

As a tax lawyer, I noticed that there are a lot of news reports on the changes. But actually, there are much more significant changes under the Train law which are not being reported.

As we celebrated the New Year, the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law or Republic Act No 10963 took effect on January 1, 2018. Train overhauls the outdated National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) which was adopted 20 years ago.

As a tax lawyer, I noticed that there are a lot of news reports on the changes. But actually, there are much more significant changes under the Train law which are not being reported.

Train relatively decreases the tax on personal income, estate, and donation. However, it also increases the tax on certain passive incomes, documents (documentary stamp tax) as well as excise tax on petroleum products, minerals, automobiles, and cigarettes.

The Train law also imposes new taxes in the form of excise tax on sweetened beverages and non-essential services (invasive cosmetic procedures) and removes the tax exemption of Lotto and other PCSO winnings amounting to more than P10,000.

Nonetheless, the new law also contains praiseworthy provisions which aim to simplify tax compliance.

Reduced taxes

Personal Income Tax

The most popular part of the Train law is the reduction of personal income tax of a majority of individual taxpayers. Prior to the enactment of the new law, an individual employee or self-employed taxpayer would normally have to pay income tax at the rate of 5% to 32%, depending on one's bracket.

Under Train, an individual with a taxable income of P250,000 or less will now be exempt from income tax. Those with a taxable income of above P250,000 will be subject to the rate of 20% to 35% effective 2018, and 15% to 35% effective 2023. Moreover, the deductible 13th month pay and other benefits are now higher at P90,000 compared to P82,000 under the old law.

The table shows the comparison of the brackets and tax rates under the NIRC and Train:

Another innovation under Train is the option of self-employed individuals and/or professionals whose gross sales or receipts do not exceed P3,000,000 to avail of an 8% tax on gross sales or gross receipts in excess of P250,000, in lieu of the graduated income tax rates.

It is not being highlighted, however, that some items that were previously deducted to arrive at taxable income had been removed under Train. These are the personal exemption of P50,000, additional exemption of P25,000 per dependent child, and the premium for health and hospitalization insurance of P2,400 per year.

Estate Tax

The estate tax rate was also changed from 5% to 32% of the net estate to a flat rate of 6%. Additionally, the following deductions allowed in computing the net estate (to be subjected to estate tax) were increased:

Donor’s tax

The donor’s tax rate was also amended to a single rate of 6% regardless of the relationship between the donor and the donee. In the old law, the rates of donor’s tax were 2% to 15% if the donor and donee are related, and 30% if otherwise. However, the donation of real property is now subject to Documentary Stamp Tax of P15 for every P1,000.

Value Added Tax

There are also amendments to VAT which lessen the burden of taxpayers:

  1. Increase of VAT threshold from P1,919,500 to P3,000,000
  2. Starting 2019, the sale of drugs and medicines for diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension will be exempt from VAT
  3. Increase of VAT exemption for lease of a residential unit from P12,800 to P15,000
  4. Association dues, membership fees, and other assessments and charges collected by homeowners associations and condominium corporations are now expressly VAT exempt

Increased taxes

Passive Income

Train imposes higher taxes on some passive incomes, including interest income from dollar and other foreign currency deposits.

There is also a significant increase in the tax on sale of shares of stocks.

Excise Tax

Train imposes higher excise taxes on cigarettes, manufactured oils (petroleum products), mineral products and automobiles.


Manufactured oils and other products

Mineral products


Hybrid vehicles shall be subject to 50% of the applicable excise tax rates. But purely electric vehicles and pick-ups shall be exempt from excise tax.

Documentary Stamp Tax

Unlike the House of Representatives’ version of Train wherein no change was introduced on the rates of Documentary Stamp Taxes (DST), Train increases the DST on almost all taxable documents.

New taxes

Aside from increase and decrease of certain taxes, Train also introduces new taxes in the form of excise tax on sweetened beverages and non-essential services.

Sweetened Beverages

Non-essential services

Invasive cosmetic procedures directed solely towards improving, altering, or enhancing the patient’s appearance is now subject to excise tax of 5%.

PCSO winnings

Previously, PCSO winnings, regardless of amount, were exempt from tax. Train subjects PCSO winnings to a 20% final withholding tax if the amount is more than P10,000.

Simplified tax compliance

Apparently, the Philippine tax system is a very complicated one. This was certainly considered by Congress when it enacted the Train law. Consequently, Train introduces amendments which are geared towards simpler tax compliance. Some of these amendments are:

  1. The Income Tax Returns shall not be more than 4 pages
  2. The Tax Return for final and creditable withholding taxes shall be filed quarterly instead of monthly
  3. With regard to estate tax, the following measures were adopted to simplify its computation and payment:
    • In lieu of actual funeral expenses (up to P200,000) and medical expenses (up to P500,000), Train increases the standard deduction (wherein no substantiation is required) from P1,000,000 to P5,000,000
    • Notice of death is no longer required
    • CPA certification is now required only if the gross estate is above P5,000,000 (up from P2,000,000)
    • The deadline for filing of estate tax return is now one year from death (before, 6 months from death)
    • Bank deposits left by the decedent may be withdrawn by the heirs subject only to 6% withholding tax. Before a certification from the BIR that estate tax has been paid was required.
  4. Beginning January 1, 2023, the filing of VAT Return and payment of tax shall be done quarterly instead of monthly
  5. The BIR is required to act on application for VAT refund within 90 days. Otherwise, the BIR official, agent or employee will be criminally liable.
  6. The Financial Statements of a taxpayer should be audited if the gross annual sales, earnings, receipts or output exceed P3,000,000 (up from P150,000)

With the enactment of the Train law, the government expects to generate more revenues to fund its "Build, Build, Build" projects and other programs. At the same time, the labor sector is expected to be freed from the burden of outdated and inequitable personal income tax. Hopefully, this benefit for the workers can still be achieved despite the increase in prices of some goods that they consume.

Read our law office's comprehensive comparison of the NIRC and the Train law here. – Rappler.com

This article is for general information only. If you have any question or comment regarding this article, you may email the author at egialogo.gdlaw@gmail.com.

Atty Edward G. Gialogo is the managing partner of Gialogo Dela Fuente & Associates. He is also a tax speaker in Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Business Law Reviewer in Review School of Accountancy (ReSA). He was an Associate Director in the Tax Services of SyCip Gorres Velayo & Co.

Published 6:23 PM, January 04, 2018

Updated 12:41 PM, January 05, 2018

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