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TRJ 2011-6: Situationer on Estate Taxation in the Philippines: Issues and Prospects, July - August 2011

The paper attempts to provide information on the various aspects of estate taxation in the Philippines and looks into the issues and proposals concerning estate tax to broaden the understanding of this tax. From the beginning, the estate tax system of the Philippines featured two (2) components, the inheritance tax and the estate tax. The inheritance tax which was a tax imposed on the heirs of the decedent was first imposed by Act No. 2601 which took effect on July 1, 1916, and through re-enactments remained in force for quite some time. It was, however, repealed effective January 1, 1973 under Presidential Decree (PD) No. 69 and integrated into the estate tax for practical administrative reasons. On the other hand, the estate tax was first imposed by Sec. 85 of Commonwealth Act (CA) No. 466 which was approved on June 15, 1939 and became effective July 1, 1939. The latest amendment to the estate tax was introduced by RA 8424 approved on December 11, 1997 and became effective January 1, 1998. It generally reduced the rates, and lowered the maximum rate of 35% to 20%. The estate tax is a tax on the right to transmit property upon the death of the decedent and on certain transfers by the decedent during his/her lifetime which are presumed by law to be equivalent of testamentary disposition. The imposition of the estate tax is frequently justified on the ground that it closely conforms to the widely accepted principles of ability-to-pay and minimal sacrifice. It also has the important economic objective of preventing undue concentration of wealth, or stated otherwise, of limiting fortunes by taxation. Like the income tax, the estate tax is characterized by progressive rates. This means, that an increase in the tax base automatically subjects the taxpayer to a higher tax rate. Also, the imposition of an estate tax may encourage the early transfer of assets through donations (as the donor’s tax rates are relatively lower) or sales (as the capital gains tax is set at only 6%, with a possible exemption from the tax if the proceeds are used to acquire another residential property). Needless to say, an early transfer of assets may lead to more or further productive or optimum use of assets which is good for growth or development purposes. An evaluation of transfer taxes under the Land Administration and Management Project (LAMP) finds that the estate tax in its current form is a weak tax from the perspective of certain tax principles – efficiency, equity, administrative simplicity and transparency, revenue adequacy and stability. Moreover, findings of the Survey of Public Perception on Real Property-Related Taxes and Fees conducted under the LAMP suggest that the estate tax is a complex tax since its determination involves a number of complicated procedures which need to be reformed or modified to simplify its tax administration aspects and facilitate tax compliance therewith. The other aspect of the administration of the estate tax that also needs to be revisited in order to reduce the cost of compliance incurred by the taxpayers has to do with the certification requirement. During the 14th Congress, HB 5602 was filed to abolish the estate tax. The proposed abolition of the estate tax was not supported because the government cannot afford to forego the revenue collected therefrom. Another argument against the abolition of the estate tax is that it is perceived to be a tax on those who have more in life for the reason that not all individuals are capable of generating wealth in different forms in more than modest amounts, and be able to transfer these to their chosen/designated heirs or beneficiaries. Moreover, if the estate tax is to be repealed, this can have a substantial impact on the donor’s tax collection. This is for the reason that a donor, instead of donating a property during his/her lifetime, will most likely opt to wait for the time of his/her death before passing the ownership of his/her assets to beneficiaries in order to avoid taxation. Thus, even the opportunity to make more productive use of assets is threatened. Considering that the present Tax Code was approved on December 11, 1997 and became effective on January 1, 1998, an adjustment in the amount of allowable deductions from the gross estate may be proposed. Examples are the adjustment of the maximum deductible medical expenses, and the deductible value of family home, from say PhP1 million to PhP10 million. Considering, however, the erosion in the tax base and the revenue loss that the government may incur if these proposals are pursued, they may have to wait for a more opportune time. HB 2931, entitled “An Act Requiring the Local Civil Registry to Provide the BIR Certified True Copy of Death Records, Providing Penalties for the Violation Thereof” was filed seeking to mandate the local civil registry (LCR) to provide the BIR certified true copies of its death records to enhance the monitoring and proper payment of estate tax and as a result thereof, boost the collection of the said tax. The proposal is supported as it will strengthen the BIR’s drive to enhance the collection of the estate tax. Noting the minimal number of estate tax returns filed vis-a-vis the number of registered deaths and to improve the collection of the estate tax, the BIR launched in February 2010 the Project Rest in Peace (Project R.I.P.) under Revenue Memorandum Order (RMO) No. 10-2010 which directs all Revenue District Offices (RDOs) to conduct a pro-active and close monitoring of potential estate tax cases by establishing linkages with and/or accessing or securing the necessary records for estate tax purposes. It is unfortunate that an evaluation of the Project R.I.P. cannot be made yet due to unavailability of necessary data.

National Tax Research Center
Authors Keywords
NTRC; Estate Taxation;
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Published in 2011 and available in the NTRC Library or Downloaded 147 times since January 02, 2014
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