Overseas Filipinos (OFs) seeking to invest and do business in the Philippines received expert guidance on navigating taxation laws during a special Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan (TNK) webinar organised by the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Sydney in partnership with the Philippine Embassy in Wellington last May 12.

   Mon Abrea, chairman and CEO of Asia Consulting Group, opened the discussion on how OFs can plan their investments to achieve greater tax savings.

   Abrea stressed that any investment comes with certain tax implications and that choosing one asset class over another can reduce the overall tax rate. As an example, he illustrated how interest income from a regular savings account comes with a 20% tax, while profits from stock market investments are only taxed 0.6%.

   “At the end of the day, it’s important that we don’t feel deprived or robbed…because we don’t understand,” he said. “If we are familiar, if we know where to ask and what to ask, I think we’d be saving a lot of money, millions of pesos or dollars.”

   Abrea urged OFs to look into REITs as an alternative to property investments. A REIT is a company that owns a portfolio of income-generating properties. REITs allow investors to profit from real estate without having to manage and maintain the properties themselves.

   During the panel discussion, representatives from BDO and Landbank shared their product and service offerings for OFs. “Whether it be for a simple requirement, such as bank account opening, online banking or even trust and investments, the bank’s international desk segment is here to assist OFWs and foreign investors in growing their financial portfolio,” said Maritess Rivera of First Vice President, BDO Unibank Inc.

   Meanwhile, Felisa Rosales, Senior Remittance Office of Landbank, introduced Overseas Filipino Bank or OFBank, a digital and branchless subsidiary of Landbank. Launched in June 2020, OFBank allows OFs to open an account from the comfort of their homes without an initial deposit and maintaining balance. It offers fund transfer, bills payment, and allows direct investment to Retail Treasury Bonds.  

   In addition to investing in Philippine-denominated securities and real estate, OFs that settled in Australia and New Zealand can still support the economic development of their home country through targeted investments in key sectors, said Ambassador Gary Domingo of the Philippine Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand.

   In particular, the ambassador expressed his willingness to help Philippine food exporters enter the Kiwi market and connect the BPO industry with potential partners in New Zealand.

   Ambassador Domingo adds that the embassy can also facilitate foreign investments to scale up the Philippine healthcare sector and capacitate frontline workers. “Why not get, for example, New Zealand investment to look into constructing more clinics, more hospitals, perhaps even as training hospitals for our nurses?” he said.

   “Consider ourselves [the Embassy] an open membership Chamber of Commerce…It’s our job to help you find capital, to help you find partners,” said Ambassador Domingo “Look at us as your salesperson. The embassy is a merchant for you… I need more business opportunities to sell in New Zealand and the Pacific.”

   The TNK webinar was held via Zoom teleconferencing platform. The simultaneous Facebook Live video also drew significant interest, reaching 607 people and garnering 220 views.  

In addition to organising webinars aimed at the Filipino community in ANZ, PTIC Sydney, together with the Trade Offices in ASEAN, Middle East, and South Asia, is organising a year-long TNK webinar series aimed at capacitating OFs in key areas of entrepreneurship. After a successful episode on agribusiness, the next episode on stocks, bonds, and mutual funds is scheduled in July.

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