“Our image or brand is simply a reflection of our vision, mission and core values. We always try to make sure that everything we do is aligned with our core values.”
TAXES have become a perennial problem to many Filipinos. From computation to filing and payment, taxes have always been the cause of headaches for many working individuals, from businessmen to professionals, and even celebrities.
It is for this reason that Mon Abrea, founding chairman of the Asian Consulting Group, introduced the Tax Whiz app — to help Filipinos with their annual tax dilemma.
“I launched the Tax Whiz app to the public because I wanted to help individual taxpayers file their tax returns anytime, anywhere, and to answer their tax questions without having to pay a consultation fee,” Abrea said. “Everything is made possible with the TaxWhizPH mobile app, which we developed even before the pandemic. The company, however, was registered during the lockdown.”
Abrea has been a noted tax consultant to high-profile individuals and prominent celebrities. To date, he has helped many of them solve their tax woes. “Most of their tax problems are caused by their lack of understanding,” he explained. “Or fear to ask about taxes, which often results in non-compliance or tedious tax assessment by audit teams from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).”
“More than the celebrities, it’s hard when handling the tax case of a known brand or company, as the BIR examiner often has a personal bias and information against the taxpayer. But everything can be settled without compromises,” he said.
Even as a noted taxation authority in the Philippines, Abrea also had his personal tax woes in the past.
“The hardest situation I’ve ever encountered before was that I voluntarily paid a penalty for not updating my Books of Accounts,” Abrea disclosed. “I really don’t have time to write manually to update it. That’s why I started using the optional 8 percent under the Train (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) Law, so I don’t need to prepare financial statements and keep official receipts of my expenses.”
Abrea’s company is based in Quezon City, with nearly 30 employees, including tax advisors. So far, he has found fulfillment in being the founding chairman of the Asian Consulting Group.
“Helping family businesses and corporations resolve their tax cases and issues without compromises is one of the things that make me feel fulfilled,” Abrea asserted. “It’s a surreal feeling when the CEOs (chief executive officers), and business owners acknowledge our expertise and thank us for helping them fix their tax problems without bribing anybody.”
“It’s hard to hire and train people, especially tax experts and advocates. Many accountants want to be tax experts, but they lack the commitment, competence, and character to uphold honesty and professional integrity at all times,” he said.
“The work demands so much time, patience and determination to be updated with all tax rules and regulations, to analyze tax cases, and come up with a solution that will not compromise the values of the taxpayers.” Before embarking on providing solutions to tax problems of people, Abrea taught accounting and taxation before finally joining the BIR in 2009. “I read a lot and I also wrote newspaper opinion pieces as well as publish tax books every year.”
Abrea hardly imagined that he and his entire team could work from home until the pandemic happened. “We are used to having all documents printed out and meeting in the conference room to discuss tax cases or conduct tax seminars or briefings,” he recalled.
“We had to pivot and use technology to continue what we are doing, like helping taxpayers manage their taxes and settle their tax cases — but this time via virtual meeting rooms, webinars and teleconferences.
“We just share with our clients the vision that tax compliance can be simple and easy. Our image or brand is simply a reflection of our vision, mission, and core values. We always try to make sure that everything we do is aligned with our core values.” His company deals with every client, from the affluent to celebrities and even the regular taxpayers, the same way, regardless of how much they earn.
“First, we explain to them why it is important to know and understand basic tax compliance, even if we will assist them,” he said. “Second, we always present or discuss the risks involved in non-compliance and tax benefits or savings if they follow our advice.”
He added: “When it comes to client loyalty, we just do our best to take care of their trust and manage their taxes the best way possible.” At a young age, Abrea remembers dreaming about being on TV because he wanted to be seen on TV. “Now, given the wide range of our tax advocacy, I am regularly interviewed on TV, so I guess I have fulfilled my simple dream of being seen on national TV.”
Abrea took up his bachelor’s degree in accountancy at San Beda University. “I was able to put my education into good use after graduating because I immediately taught in San Beda,” he granted. “I even became the Academic Head of the Accountancy Program in 2005.
“I also earned my MBA [Master of Business Administration] from the Ateneo Graduate School of Business in 2010.”
At present, Abrea is attending the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts for his Master in Public Administration. “I want to further improve myself so I can help our government and companies better when it comes to tax policies and administration,” he said.
More often, Abrea finds himself buried in work. Yet, he also makes time for family. He visits his mom, Jasmin, in their hometown in Pampanga whenever time permits. “We travel a lot as a family here and abroad,” he said. “I guess, my idea of unwinding is to travel away from work. I don’t like talking about work, so I just listen to their stories and watch movies on Netflix.”
“I travel a lot around the country and abroad because of our tax advocacy. In the Philippines, I usually get invited to speak in tax conferences out of town. I also give investment and tax briefings abroad organized by the Philippine Embassy or Philippine Trade and Investment Center.”
Abrea said his father, Renato, remains his role model who taught him the biggest lesson that he values in life. “My father was not a college graduate, but he had proven that with hard work and dedication, you could get rid of poverty,” Abrea said. “He was able to start his own business, help a lot of people, and remain grateful to those who helped him.”
When not working, Abrea’s days off consist of reading a book or an article. “I also love watching Korean dramas and cooking shows when I’m at home,” he said. I usually travel during weekends, especially long weekends.”
An extreme sport aficionado, Abrea said he loves water sports like wakeboarding, kayaking and scuba diving. “I want to try skydiving as well,” he excitedly said.
A proud mama’s boy, Abrea remains single and dotes on his four nephews. “Just knowing the fact that they support me with everything I do is more than enough for me,” he admitted. “They also make me feel that they’re proud of me and that is where I get my support from.”
First paycheck: It was in June 2004 and for only P18,000.
Morning ritual: I start the day with a morning prayer, then exercise and a drink of fresh milk.
Time on social media: Four to six hours, as it is part of my work.
Role model: My father.
Best skill: Learning or gaining knowledge while also adapting easily to whatever environment I am in.
Goals: To help as many people as I can through our work and advocacy, [and] to have my own family and retire before I turn 60.
Life fact: I love traveling and trying extreme sports like skiing, surfing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, bungee jumping. I really want to try skydiving.
Originally published in Manila Times