We are (not) on a break: Extensions and suspensions for ECQ season 3

The government has announced that it is imposing the third enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in certain areas across the country, the strictest form of quarantine in which everyone, except essential workers, is restricted from going out. However, we should know that our responsibility as taxpayers is not put on hold despite constraints brought on by government lockdowns.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is not oblivious to these restrictions faced by taxpayers. It imposed ways to ease taxpayers’ worries about having to meet tax deadlines considering the threat of the more infectious Delta variant of COVID-19.

As such, the BIR issued Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) No. 91-2021 on Aug. 3 for the purpose of extending the deadline of the filing of returns and payment of corresponding taxes due, as well as the submission of reports and attachments which fall within the Aug. 6-20 period. The RMC provides for an extension of 15 calendar days from Aug. 20, or until Sept. 4, to file, pay, or submit reports and attachments to the appropriate BIR offices. Since the extended deadline falls on a Saturday, taxpayers have until the next working day to file or submit their dues. If the ECQ or MECQ is extended, deadlines shall be extended by another 15 days.

The BIR likewise encouraged payment of taxes at Authorized Agent Banks, notwithstanding Revenue District Office (RDO) jurisdiction (“out of district filing”), or with Revenue Collection Officers of the nearest RDO, and through online facilities such as those offered by LANDBANK, Development Bank of the Philippines, UnionBank, and GCash or PayMaya.

Other issuances from the BIR recognize the restrictions on movement and impact brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include:

EXTENDING THE ESTATE TAX AMNESTY
The BIR has further extended the period to avail of the Estate Tax Amnesty wherein the executor or administrator of estates, legal heirs, transferees, or beneficiaries have until June 14, 2023 to file the Estate Tax Amnesty Return or BIR Form 2118-EA and pay estate taxes due pursuant to Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 17-2021.

DEFERRAL OF 12% VAT IMPOSITIONS ON SPECIFIC TRANSACTIONS
Further acknowledging the burden to the export industry brought about by the pandemic, the BIR issued RR No. 15-2021 on July 28. This RR deferred the implementation of RR No. 09-2021 which imposed 12% Value-Added Tax (VAT) on transactions previously subjected to 0% VAT such as: (1) the sale of raw materials or packaging materials to a nonresident buyer for delivery to a resident local export-oriented enterprise to be used in manufacturing, processing, packing or repacking in the Philippines of the said buyer’s goods and paid for in acceptable foreign currency and accounted for in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP); (2) sale of raw materials or packaging materials to export-oriented enterprises whose export sales exceed 70% of total annual production; (3) those considered export sales under the Omnibus Investment Code and other special laws; (4) processing, manufacturing, or repacking goods for other persons doing business outside the Philippines, which goods are subsequently exported, where the services are paid for in acceptable foreign currency and accounted for in accordance with the rules and regulations of the BSP; and (5) services performed by subcontractors and/or contractors in processing, converting, or manufacturing goods for an enterprise whose export sales exceed seventy percent (70%) of total annual production.

SUSPENSION OF THE ‘NON-PROFIT’ REQUIREMENT
The BIR issued RR No. 14-2021 concerning educational institutions which have been forced to conduct online classes since the start of the pandemic. The newly passed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act or CREATE Law provides that proprietary educational institutions which are non-profit pay a 1% income tax rate beginning July 1, 2021 until June 30, 2023. However, RR No. 14-2021 suspends the requirement that proprietary educational institutions be “non-profit” to be eligible for the 1% transitory income tax.

SUSPENSION OF THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS ON ASSESSMENT AND COLLECTION
On the part of BIR personnel, the Bureau issued Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) No. 80-2021 on June 25 which clarified the suspension of the statute of limitations on assessment and collection of taxes due to the ongoing pandemic and varying quarantine classifications in force around the country. The suspension begins from the declaration of the ECQ or MECQ and provides an additional 60 days from the lifting of the quarantine to issue assessment notices, warrants of distraint and/or levy, and warrants of garnishment to enforce collection of deficiency taxes in affected jurisdictions.

PREVIOUS SUSPENSIONS AND EXTENSIONS
It may also be recalled that in compliance with health protocols to combat COVID-19, the BIR issued RMC No. 39-2021 extending the deadline for the filing of applications for VAT Refund Claims and suspended the 90-day processing at the VAT Credit Audit Division (VCAD). It also issued RMC 45-2021 which extended the deadline for the filing of position papers, replies, protests, documents, and other similar letters and correspondences in relation to ongoing audit investigations, and further extending of VAT refunds with the VCAD. With the third ECQ, it may be expected that the BIR will issue similar extensions or suspensions.

However, these should not be taken by taxpayers as a license to be lax in paying taxes and complying with reporting requirements set by the BIR while the ECQ is in force. It is important to consider that even with the ECQ, working with a skeleton workforce may affect our efficiency. Thus, planning ahead and engaging in constant communication with personnel would prove helpful to complete compliance requirements once the ECQ is lifted.

In this Season 3 of the ECQ, we should not end up arguing whether we’re on a break or not. The reality remains that life — and taxes — continue during quarantine. As such, taxpayers should remain informed and updated with the BIR’s issuances to avoid missing deadlines or incurring unnecessary penalties and surcharges.

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.

Anna Gabrielle L. Sunga is an associate of Tax Advisory & Compliance division of P&A Grant Thornton, the Philippine member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd.

pagrantthornton@ph.gt.com

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