Let's Talk Tax

Amendments on compensation tax

Nikkolai Canceran Nikkolai Canceran

My employed friend recently requested me to compute her annual income tax due for the prior year 2017. Her gross compensation from her lone employer was less than P250,000. I arrived at her annual income tax due after deducting the taxes withheld by her employer. I told her then that, if she receives the same amount of compensation this year, there will be no more withholding tax and annual income tax due. To my surprise, her employer continuously withheld tax on her January and February 2018 salary, even if she has been receiving the same monthly salary since last year. This was despite the passage and effectivity of the TRAIN Law effective Jan. 1, 2018 and notwithstanding the other pertinent issuances by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) early this year. Her employer explained that their reason for the continuous withholding was that they were still waiting for the BIR’s specific guidelines on implementing the new compensation tax rule in the TRAIN law.

As invalid as the excuse might be, my friend and others in a similar situation could now be thankful that the BIR has published Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 11-2018, which implements the new compensation tax provisions, among other provisions, of the TRAIN Law.

RR No. 11-2018 does not only reiterate that those receiving an income of not more than P250,000 in a taxable year, beginning Jan. 1, are exempt from income tax, and consequently to withholding tax, it also provides guidelines for other employment-related taxes. Some of the salient provisions are described below.

1. EXEMPTION OF MINIMUM WAGE EARNERS FROM WITHHOLDING TAX
For minimum wage earners (MWE), holiday pay, overtime pay, night differential pay, and hazard pay earned by an MWE shall, likewise, be exempt from withholding tax. Additional compensation such as commissions, honoraria, fringe benefits, benefits in excess of the mandatory non-taxable amount of P90,000, taxable allowances, and other taxable income given to an MWE by the employer other than those which are expressly exempt from income tax, however, shall be subject to withholding tax using the revised withholding tax table.

Based on the above, in addition to the basic pay of the MWE, their exemption covers even holiday pay, overtime pay, night differential pay, and hazard pay. An MWE will only be taxed on the amount of the additional compensation which is not covered by the exemption.

The inclusion of this categorical guideline in RR No. 11-2018 is a welcome development for MWEs. It can be recalled that there was a 2008 BIR regulation suggesting that an MWE who receives additional taxable compensation and benefits shall no longer be entitled to the privilege of being an MWE and, therefore, their entire income is subject to tax. For example, if a MWE receives, in addition to his minimum salary, a P1 commission for selling his employer’s inventory, not only would this commission be subject to tax but also his entire salary. Unfair, right? One would think that it is better to not receive additional taxable benefits than to receive less take-home pay, because of withholding tax.

Although this 2008 regulation was nullified in a 2017 Supreme Court decision, it is comforting to note that the above categorical guideline in RR No. 11-2018 to protect the exemption of MWEs is in place.

As an administrative requirement, in case of hazardous employment, the employer shall indicate in the annual Alphabetical List of Employees, the MWEs who received the hazard pay, period of employment, amount of hazard pay, and justification for such payment as certified by the concerned Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE)-allied agency. The certification is an attachment in the filing of the Annual Information Return (BIR Form No. 1604C). In case the MWE is in the public sector, the document to be attached is the Department of Budget Management (DBM) Circular related to such payment of hazard pay.

2. REVISED WITHHOLDING TAX RATES AND TABLES
Starting Jan. 1, the employer shall deduct and withhold from such compensation a tax determined in accordance with the prescribed withholding tax table, as published by the BIR under Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) No. 1-2018.

Using the new withholding tax table as an example, if you are receiving a monthly compensation of P20,000 (net of SSS/GSIS/PHIC/HDMF) and are single with no dependents, your monthly withholding tax should be P0. Prior to the TRAIN Law, though, if you have the same monthly compensation, your withholding tax would then be P2,916.75.

Check your withholding tax this year. The revised tax table is effective beginning Jan. 1. See if you are entitled to a refund.

3. INCREASED AMOUNT OF CERTAIN DE MINIMIS BENEFITS
Although the TRAIN Law did not touch on amendments to de minimis benefits, it is a welcome development that the Department of Finance made upward adjustments to certain nontaxable de minimis benefits.

The nontaxable cash allowance to dependents of employees rose to P1,500 per employee per semester (P250 per month) from not exceeding P750 per employee per semester (P125 per month).

In addition, the nontaxable rice subsidy has been raised to not more than P2,000 per month from not more than P1,500.

Further, the nontaxable uniform and clothing allowance has been increased to P6,000 per annum from P5,000.

Based on the increases above, employers may consider reevaluating their compensation policy, particularly in giving salary increases, to possibly maximize their employees’ take-home pay.

With all the illustrative examples in RR No. 11-2018, I hope my friend and all other employees would be more aware of the computation of their taxes. Every peso counts, especially now that commodity prices have gone up, because of the TRAIN Law. On the part of the employers, compliance with tax regulations is a must, because failure to do so could result in penalties or possible deficiency tax assessments.

Nikkolai F. Canceran is a senior manager of the Tax Advisory and Compliance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory, and outsourcing services firms in the Philippines.

 

As published in BusinessWorld, dated 03 April 2018