The Electronic Filing and Payment System (eFPS) was developed to provide taxpayers with “top quality and convenient service through a much faster processing and immediate confirmation of filing of tax returns and payment of taxes due thereon.” The system allows the taxpayers to directly encode, submit their tax returns and pay their taxes online. Considering the convenience made by the eFPS, filing and payment can be done anytime and anywhere where Internet is accessible. In spite of such accessibility, taxpayers fall prey to the trifles of the due dates for filing and payment in case these falls on a holiday or on a weekend.
There is no issue for manual taxpayers whenever the due date falls on a weekend or a holiday as the filing and payment is automatically deferred to the next business day. However, for eFPS filers, in view of the emerging enhancements to the online world, the question now lies: do eFPS taxpayers enjoy the same benefits as that of manual taxpayers?
Most eFPS taxpayers still file on the basis that the due date for filing and payment is postponed to the next business day, as is the case with manual filers.
There are some, though, who opt to be conservative and assume that the due date is not moved when it falls on a weekend or a holiday, considering the pros and convenience eFPS taxpayers enjoy.
It is well-noted that the BIR calendar does not provide for a distinction. Likewise, the BIR has neither issued any regulation on such matter.
It seems though that there may be basis for some conservatism. In one case that has come to our attention, a certain Revenue District Office (RDO) assessed the eFPS taxpayer for late payment as the latter paid after the last day of payment which fell on a Saturday. According to the RDO, there is no legal basis for extension of the payment due date to the next business day.
Should there be a specific issuance to authorize the extension? In January 2015, when the President issued a proclamation declaring special holidays throughout the Philippines in preparation for the Papal visit, the BIR announced a deferment of deadlines to the next working day. Does it imply that, in the absence of any issuance or advisory, taxpayers will have to file and pay within the period, which is inconsistent with the provision of the Administrative Code of the Philippines?
Under Section 28 of the Administrative Code of the Philippines, where the day, or the last day for doing any act required or permitted by law falls on a regular holiday, or a special day, the act may be done on the next succeeding business day. Moreover, Section 1 Rule 22 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the period shall not run until the next working day if the last day of the period, as computed by the court or other applicable Statute, falls on a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday in the place where the court sits.
It is noteworthy to mention that most businesses, government and private alike, are also closed on weekends. Hence, it would be inconsistent with mandating taxpayers to file and pay on a weekend or holiday that it falls due. Moreover, there are CTA cases where eFPS returns were filed beyond the deadline falling on a weekend but without the CTA or the CIR calling attention to the late filing.
As the Administrative Code has not been amended and no specific regulation has been issued by BIR, we believe there is legal basis for the movement of the due dates even for eFPS.
Even the eFPS itself seems to recognize weekends, and holidays are automatically determined by the system and no penalties are imposed if returns are filed on the following working day. In other instances, the eFPS automatically imposes penalties on late filing/payment.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is still worthwhile to be conservative for the taxpayer to file and pay on or before the last day required by law.
The issues may arise when a taxpayer applies for a tax refund, transfer of RDO, certifications or accreditations and other permits. In such cases, the BIR has to issue a clearance, and the late filings may be raised as open cases. In such instances, the taxpayer applying for permit or accreditation is pressured to give in and pay the penalties due to the exigency of having the permits or accreditation issued.
In many cases, we have known that the BIR stands firm on its interpretation and the taxpayer has no recourse but to pay or to appeal the same in court.
Taxpayers who take on the burden of financing our government do not deserve to be bothered and burdened with such trivial issues. It is hoped that this, and many other minor issues which can have major consequences in terms of penalties, could be clarified to give taxpayers their much deserved transparency and consistency in the implementation of the tax laws.
Flourence Kathrine Enriquez is a senior of the Tax Advisory and Compliance division of Punongbayan & Araullo.
As published in Business World, dated 14 June 2016