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Let's Talk Tax

Freedom from past tax burdens — a work in progress

As we are celebrating Philippine Independence this month, I can recall several kinds of freedom. For Filipinos, June 12 is a commemoration of our freedom from being ruled by another nation. Another type of freedom is for young upon reaching the legal age, at which point they can make their own choices. Freedom can also be viewed in the context of moving on from a failed relationship. For the taxpayers’ perspective, freedom would mean liberation from tax burden; and it is fitting to mention that, early this year, a law was passed to set free the taxpayers from the past tax deficiencies.

As we know, in February, Republic Act No. 11213 (RA 11213) or the Tax Amnesty Act was signed into law. The law specifically includes provisions for amnesty covering estate tax and tax delinquencies. Subsequently, the Department of Finance, with the recommendation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), issued Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 4-2019 and RR No. 6-2019 providing for the guidelines on the processing of applications for amnesty on tax delinquencies and on estate tax, respectively.

Under RR No. 4-2019, the covered “Delinquent Account” was defined as pertaining to a tax due from a taxpayer arising from the audit of the BIR, which had been issued Assessment Notices that have become final and executory due to the instances enumerated in the said RR. In defining the words “Delinquent Account”, all persons, whether natural or juridical, with internal revenue tax liabilities covering the taxable year 2017 and prior years, may avail of Amnesty on Tax Delinquencies within one year from the effectivity of RR No. 4-2019 or until April 24, 2020.

RR No. 4-2019 also provides that the tax delinquency of those who avail of the tax amnesty on delinquencies under these regulations, upon full compliance with all the conditions, shall be considered settled. In addition, the criminal case in connection therewith and its corresponding civil or administrative case, if applicable, shall be terminated. Moreover, the taxpayer shall be immune from all suits or actions relating to the internal revenue taxes for taxable years that are subject of the tax amnesty availed of. Yes, freedom indeed!

On the other hand, just recently, RR No. 6-2019 was issued to implement the estate tax amnesty. The RR covers the estate of the decedent/s who died on or before Dec. 31, 2017, with or without assessments duly issued therefor, whose estate tax/es have remain unpaid or have accrued as of Dec. 31, 2017.

Under RR No. 6-2019, taxpayers are given two years from the effectivity of the RR, or until June 15, 2021, to file the Estate Tax Amnesty Return (ETAR), or BIR Form No. 2118-EA in triplicate, at the Revenue District Office (RDO) having jurisdiction over the last residence of the decedent. If the decedent has no legal residence in the Philippines, the return shall be filed with RDO 039 — South Quezon City. The amnesty rate is 6%, which is equal to the new estate tax rate.

Similar to RR No. 4-2019, RR No. 6-2019 likewise provided immunity and privileges for availing of an estate tax amnesty. Estates covered by estate tax amnesty, which have fully complied with all the conditions set forth therein, including the payment of estate tax amnesty, shall be immune from the payment of all estate taxes as well as any increments and additions thereto, arising from the failure to pay any and all estate taxes for taxable year 2017 and prior years, and from all appurtenant civil, criminal and administrative cases, and penalties under the 1997 Tax Code, as amended.

Both RR No. 4-2019 and RR No. 6-2019 provide that the availment of the corresponding tax amnesty under the said regulations do not imply any admission of criminal, civil, or administrative liability on the part of the availing taxpayer/estate.

Clearly, the above regulations would set the taxpayers free from the burdens of past tax deficiencies, to the extent covered by the regulations.

How about the freedom from the past tax liabilities other than the tax delinquencies and estate tax?

As we may recall, portions of RA 11213 dealing with the General Tax Amnesty (GTA) were vetoed due to concerns related to bank secrecy rules, among others. The GTA was supposed to cover all national internal revenue taxes such as but not limited to, income tax, withholding tax, capital gains tax, donor’s tax, value-added tax, other percentage taxes, excise tax, and documentary stamp tax collected by the BIR and, including value-added tax and excise taxes collected by the Bureau of Customs (BoC), for taxable year 2017 and prior years.

As the GTA was excluded, a call to Congress was made to pass another version of the GTA that, the taxpayers hope, is approved soon. According to news reports, a new bill for GTA is already on its way.

Certainly, having the benefits and privileges of a tax amnesty would free the taxpayers from past tax burdens. Further, it would also help the State raise additional tax revenue while clearing out the BIR’s dockets.

Let’s Talk Tax is a weekly newspaper column of P&A Grant Thornton that aims to keep the public informed of various developments in taxation. This article is not intended to be a substitute for competent professional advice.


Ma. Jessica A. Guevarra is an associate of Tax Advisory & Compliance division of P&A Grant Thornton, the Philippine member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd.



As published in BusinessWorld, dated 25 June 2019