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Business tax laws in the Philippines

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At the national level, taxes are imposed and collected pursuant to the National Internal
Revenue Code, the Tariff and Customs Code, and several special laws. There are four
main types of national internal revenue taxes: income, indirect (value-added and
percentage taxes), excise and documentary stamp taxes, all of which are administered
by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). At the local level, governments have some
autonomy to impose taxes on business and ownership of real property.
There is a territorial system of taxation for foreign corporations and individuals, as well as non-
resident citizens. Only Philippine-sourced income is subject to Philippine taxes for the latter

Corporations incorporated under Philippine laws and resident citizens are subject to income tax
on their worldwide income.

Corporate Income Tax

The regular corporate income tax (RCIT) is 30% on net taxable income. There is a minimum
corporate income tax (MCIT) equivalent to 2% of gross income, which applies beginning on the
fourth year of commercial operation. Allowable expenses in computing the gross income subject
to MCIT for certain business activities have been enumerated. The excess MCIT paid over the
RCIT is allowed as a tax credit against the RCIT payable in the succeeding three years. The 30%
rate also applies to non-resident foreign corporations. The tax is calculated on gross income
instead of net income. Exemptions apply pursuant to tax treaty provisions.

Certain types of income and corporations are subject to special tax rates and are as follows:

 International carriers doing business in the Philippines – 2.5% of gross billings from carriage
originating from the Philippines. Lower rates are available under tax treaties. Exemption applies
on condition of reciprocity;
 Expanded foreign currency deposit units of banks – 10% on onshore interest income;
 Offshore banking – 10% on onshore interest income;
 Regional operating headquarters of multinational companies – 10% of taxable income;
 Regional or area headquarters of multinational companies – exempt.
These entities are not allowed to generate income from Philippine sources nor solicit or market
goods and services on behalf of their head office or affiliates. They are authorised to act as
supervisory, communications and coordinating centres for their affiliates;

 Contractors and subcontractors engaged in petroleum exploration – 8% of gross income in lieu of

all other taxes;
 Non-resident foreign owners, lessors or distributors of motion pictures – 25% of gross income;
 Non-resident owners of vessels – 4.5% of gross rental, lease or charter fees from citizens; and
 Non-resident foreign lessors of aircraft, machinery and other equipment – 7.5% on rentals,
charter fees and other fees from Philippine sources.
These taxes are withheld by the payer.

Tax Base
Taxable income is calculated in accordance with the accounting method employed by the
company. Where there are differences in financial and tax reporting on the recognition of income
and expenses, the differences are recognised as reconciling items on the income tax return.

Deductible Expenses
All expenses incurred in connection with the conduct of business are allowed to be claimed as
deductions when calculating net income subject to tax. The tax code lists the following
deductions: ordinary and necessary expenses; interest; taxes; losses; bad debts; depreciation;
depletion of oil and gas wells and mines; charitable and other contributions; research and
development; and contributions to employee pension trusts.

Deductibility of certain expenses is subject to limitations. The interest expense allowed shall be
reduced by an amount equivalent to 33% of the company’s interest income that is subject to final
tax. Interest paid by corporations to a majority individual shareholder is non-deductible.

Likewise, interest expenses are not allowed as a tax expense if paid to a personal holding
company that is more than 50% owned by a majority shareholder of the corporation.

Entertainment and recreation expenses of a business are subject to a limit of 0.5% and 1% of net
revenue for taxpayers engaged in selling goods and services, respectively.

Income tax in a foreign country by a domestic corporation on foreign-sourced income may be

claimed as a deductible expense or as a tax credit against Philippine income tax due on such

Property losses sustained in relation to the business and not indemnified by insurance or other
means are deductible from gross income. The net operating loss incurred in any taxable year can
be carried forward to the three succeeding taxable years. Capital losses can be offset only against
capital gains. Losses from wash sales of stock or securities are not deductible.
Research and development expenses may be claimed as a deduction during the year they are
incurred. The taxpayer has an option to amortise the expense over a period of not less than 60
months, beginning with the month when the benefits from such expenditure were realised.

Contributions to a qualified employee pension trust are deductible to the extent of the excess of
the contribution needed to cover the pension liability accruing during the taxable year. The
amount shall be apportioned equally over a period of 10 years. The plan should be pre-qualified
by the tax authorities.

Requirement For Deductibility

Expenses must be substantiated with official receipts. Expenses may be disallowed as a
deduction if the prescribed withholding tax on payments made for such expenses is not withheld
and paid to the tax authorities.

Optional Standard Deduction

Corporations may claim an optional standard deduction (OSD) at 40% of gross income in lieu of
the itemised deductible expenses. The option to claim the OSD may be changed every year but
the choice, once made in the first quarter, is irrevocable for the taxable year.

Tax Year
A corporation may choose a calendar or fiscal year for its taxable year, depending on which
schedule more accurately reflects its taxable income. Prior approval from the BIR is required to
change the accounting period.

Group Of Companies
For tax purposes, each company is an independent entity and, as such, must file its own tax
return and pay its own taxes. The filing of consolidated tax returns or the relieving of losses
within a group of companies is not allowed. Related companies must interact on an arm’s-length
basis. The BIR is authorised to allocate revenues and expenses between related companies to
prevent tax evasion or to reflect each entity’s income.

In 2013 the Philippines issued the transfer pricing regulations, which specify the methodologies
to be used in determining the arm’s-length price and the documentation required to show
compliance with the arm’s-length standard in related party transactions. The documentation shall
be submitted to the tax authorities upon notification.

Corporate Tax Returns & Payment

Domestic and resident foreign corporations must file their quarterly income tax returns within 60
days of the end of each taxable quarter. They must also file a final adjusted return on or before
the 15th of the fourth month following the end of the tax year – April 15 for taxpayers on
calendar year. The quarterly and annual returns cover the RCIT and the MCIT, as well as income
subject to special tax regimes.
Non-resident foreign corporations are not required to file income tax returns. Taxes due on their
Philippine-sourced income are withheld at the source by the Philippine-based company making
the payment.

Excess income taxes paid during the year may be applied for refund or the amount may be
carried over to the succeeding quarter. The latter option shall be irrevocable for that taxable year
and no application for cash refund shall be allowed.

Tax credit certificates (TCCs) may only be used to pay for certain direct internal revenue tax
liabilities of the holder, and are prohibited from being transferred to any person.

In 2012 the Philippine government implemented a monetisation programme running from 2012
to 2016 that allows all value-added tax (VAT) TCCs to be converted to cash.

The improperly accumulated earnings tax (IAET) is essentially a penalty that is levied against
closely held corporations for the unreasonable accumulation of its earnings resulting in the non-
distribution of dividends to shareholders and, consequently, to deferred payment of dividends

The IAET is imposed at 10% of the accumulated retained earnings in excess of 100% of the paid
up capital of the corporation, and an allowance for reasonable needs, on a case to case basis. Paid
up capital refers to the par value, excluding any premium paid.

Banks, insurance companies, publicly held corporations and companies registered with – and
enjoying preferential tax treatment in – special economic and freeport zones are not covered by
the IAET. The IAET is due one year and 15 days following the close of the taxable year and is
covered by a separate tax return.

Dividends & Profit Remittances

Dividends from a domestic corporation are tax-exempt in the hands of other domestic
corporations. The tax is 10% if these are paid to citizens and residents, and 25% if paid to non-
resident foreign nationals.

Dividends paid to non-resident foreign corporations from domestic corporations are taxed at 30%
or the treaty rate. A lower rate of 15% applies if the recipient’s home country does not impose a
tax on foreign-sourced dividends or when there are tax-sparing provisions. Dividends received
by domestic corporations from foreign corporations form part of the income subject to RCIT.

A 15% tax rate also applies on the remittance of profits of Philippine branches to their foreign
parent companies. The tax is based on total profits that are applied to remittance without any
deduction for the tax component. The tax is not waived even if the profits for remittance are
reinvested in the Philippines. Branches registered in the special economic zones are exempt from
this tax. Preferential rates of branch profits remittance tax are available under treaties.
Interest & Royalties
Royalties payable to non-resident foreign corporations are subject to 30% final withholding tax.
A rate of 25% is imposed on non-resident foreign nationals. Interest on foreign loans paid to
non-resident foreign corporations is taxed at 20%. Tax treaties allow preferential rates.

Other Passive Income

Scheduled rates apply on most passive income, including the following:

 Interest from bank deposits and yields from deposit substitutes and similar arrangements,
royalties, prizes and other winnings from Philippine sources – 20%;
 Interest from foreign currency deposits in a local bank – 7.5% (non-residents are exempt);
 Interest income from long-term deposits – individuals are exempt;
 Gains from sale of shares listed and traded through the local exchange – exempt from income tax
but subject to a transaction tax at 0.5% of selling price;
 Capital gains from the sale of land and buildings classified as capital assets – 6% of the gross
selling price or market value, whichever is higher (not applicable to non-resident foreign
individuals and corporations); and
 Capital gains from the sale of shares in a domestic corporation, not traded through the local stock
exchange – 5% on the first P100,000 ($2220) of net gain and 10% on the excess.
This tax is imposed on the cumulative net gain from the sale of shares during the taxable year.
Gains from the surrender of shares upon dissolution of the issuing company are taxed at the
regular corporate/individual tax rates.

Other Capital Assets

Gains from the sale or disposition of capital assets other than land or buildings and shares in
domestic corporations are taxed as business income.

For individuals, only 50% of the gain is taxed if the asset is held for over 12 months. Capital
losses are deductible only to the extent of gains made.

Personal Income Tax

Foreign nationals and non-residents are subject to income tax only on income from Philippine
sources. Only residents or citizens are taxed on worldwide income. Graduated rates from 5% to
32% apply to citizens, resident aliens and non-resident aliens staying in the country for more
than 180 days in a year.

If engaged in business or the practice of a profession, the net taxable income is calculated in the
same manner as that for corporations. The 40% OSD for individuals is based on gross revenues.
Non-resident foreign nationals not doing business in the Philippines are taxed at a rate of 25% on
their Philippine-sourced income, including wages, rents, gains, interest, dividends and royalties.

Foreign nationals who are employed by offshore banking units, regional or area headquarters and
operating headquarters of multinational companies, and petroleum service contractors and
subcontractors enjoy a preferential rate of 15%.

Individual Tax Returns & Payment

For individuals, the tax year is the calendar year and income tax is due on or before April 15 of
the following year. The tax liabilities of spouses are calculated separately, although spouses are
required to file their tax returns jointly. Individuals filing income tax returns are required to
disclose in their annual income tax returns the amounts and sources of other income that is
exempt from tax or already subjected to final taxes. For employees receiving only compensation,
employers are relied upon to ensure that the correct tax for the year is fully withheld. Employees
qualifying under the substituted filing scheme are exempt from filing annual income tax returns.

Employees receiving only the statutory minimum wage are exempt from the payment of income
tax if they do not earn other taxable income, whether from the conduct of business or from other
employment. Employers are not required to withhold tax from them. Non-resident aliens not
engaged in business are not required to file an annual income tax return.

Withholding Taxes
Most income is subject to withholding of taxes. If the payor is classified as a top-20,000
corporation or a top-5000 individual engaged in business, it is required to withhold on all
payments for the purchase of goods (1%) and services (2%). Withholding taxes on income
subject to the RCIT are creditable against the calculated liability. Most passive income is subject
to final withholding taxes. For corporate taxpayers, this is disclosed as income that is no longer
subject to regular income tax. Income payments to non-resident foreign corporations are
withheld at the source as final taxes. Hence, non-resident foreign corporations are not required to
file annual income tax returns.

Indirect Taxes
A 12% VAT is imposed on the gross selling price on the sale, barter or exchange of goods and
properties, as well as on the gross receipts from the sale of services within the Philippines,
including the lease of properties.

The 12% VAT paid on the company’s purchases relative to its business subject to VAT is
credited against the 12% VAT due on gross sales or receipts. The net amount is the VAT

Exports are subject to 0% VAT and entitle the exporter to claim a refund for VAT that has been
paid on its purchases of goods, properties and services relating to the product. Exempt status is
granted to certain transactions and entities. In such cases, VAT paid on the inputs is not allowed
to be claimed as creditable input VAT. Instead, the VAT paid forms part of the deductible costs
of the business.

A VAT taxpayer files monthly declarations and quarterly returns that serve as the final adjusted
return for the period. The VAT on services performed in the Philippines by non-resident foreign
corporations, as well as the VAT on royalties and rentals payable to such non-resident foreign
corporations, is withheld by the paying local company.

Imports are subject to VAT unless specifically exempted. VAT is paid whether or not the
importer conducts business. Percentage taxes on gross receipts apply to most services and
transactions not subject to VAT, such as:

 Carriers of passenger on land – 3%;

 International carriers on carriage of cargoes – 3%;
 Franchisees of gas and water utilities – 2%;
 Banks and non-bank financial firms – 1%, 5% or 7%;
 Life insurance companies and agents of foreign insurance firms – 5% of the premiums; and
 Sale of shares through initial public offerings – one-half of 1% of the selling price.
Excise Taxes
In addition to VAT, excise taxes are imposed on the following: alcohol, tobacco, petroleum
products, automobiles, mineral products, and non-essential goods such as jewellery and precious
stones, perfumes, yachts and other sport vessels.

Documentary Stamp Tax

A documentary stamp tax (DST) is required for certain documents, transactions or instruments
specified in the tax code when the obligation or right arises from Philippine sources or when the
property is situated in the Philippines. These include:
 Bills of exchange – 0.15%;
 Bills of lading – 1%;
 Sale of real property – 1.5% of the fair market value;
 Original issuance of shares – 0.5% of par value;
 Sale of shares (except those listed and traded in the local stock exchange) – 0.38% of par value;
 Debt instruments – 0.5%; and
 Lease agreements – 0.1% of the total lease over the lease period.
Tax Audit
The period allowed for tax authorities to audit companies and assess deficiency taxes is three
years from the date of filing of the final return. If fraud is alleged, this period may extend to 10
years from the date of discovery of the possible fraud.
The deficiency tax may be collected within five years from the date when the assessment
becomes final. Assessments may be contested in courts.

Recovery Of Taxes
In the case of taxes that have been excessively or erroneously paid, a taxpayer may apply for
refund or the issuance of TCCs within two years from the date of payment. For purposes of the
creditable taxes withheld, the option to carry forward the excess credits generated shall be
irrevocable once chosen. A VAT-registered taxpayer may apply for the refund of any excess
VAT when the taxpayer shifts to a non-VAT activity or ceases to be in business or when such
input taxes arise from zero-rated sales.

Bookkeeping Requirements
All business entities subject to internal revenue taxes are required to maintain books of account.
These consist of a journal, a ledger and subsidiary records required for the business. Entities
subject to VAT are also required to keep subsidiary sales and purchase journals. Accounting
records may be kept in either English or Spanish. The books and records must be preserved for a
period of at least 10 years. Companies with gross quarterly sales or receipts exceeding P150,000
($3330) shall have their books audited and examined yearly by independent certified public
accountants who should be accredited as tax agents by the tax bureau.

For public companies, banks and insurance companies, the independent certified public
accountants should further be accredited by regulatory agencies, such as the Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC), the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (the central bank) or the
Insurance Commission.

Financial statements are required to be filed together with annual income tax returns. In addition
to maintaining books of accounts, the Corporation Code requires businesses to keep records of
all business transactions, minutes of meetings of shareholders and directors, and a stock and
transfer book. Sales should be evidenced by receipts and invoices based on the prescribed

The books may be in manual or digital form. These are required to be registered with the tax
authorities prior to their use. Large taxpayers, however, are mandated to adopt a digitised
accounting system.

Financial Reporting
The amended Securities Regulation Code (SRC) Rule 68 (the Rule) issued by the Philippine SEC
prescribed a financial reporting framework or set of accounting principles, standards,
interpretations and pronouncements, which must be adopted in the preparation and submission of
the annual financial statements of a particular group of entities. The following paragraphs outline
the financial reporting framework prescribed by SRC Rule 68 for each group of entities covered
by the Rule.
Large and/or publicly accountable entities are those with total assets exceeding P350m ($7.8m)
or total liabilities of more than P250m ($5.6m). Other entities covered by the Rule include those
required to file financial statements under Part II of SRC Rule 68 (for example, an issuer that has
sold a class of securities pursuant to registration under Section 12 of the SRC, an issuer with a
class of securities listed for trading on an exchange, and an issuer with assets of at least P50m
[$1.1m] and 200 or more shareholders each holding at least 100 shares of a class of equity
securities); entities in the process of issuing securities to the public market; or entities that are
holders of secondary licences issued by regulatory agencies.

Entities qualifying in any of the criteria provided above shall use Philippine Financial Reporting
Standards (PFRS) as their financial reporting framework. However, another set of reporting rules
may be permitted by the SEC for certain regulated entities, such as banks and insurance

The PFRS are adopted by the Financial Reporting Standards Council (FRSC) from the
International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) issued by the International Accounting
Standards Board (IASB).

Small and medium-sized entities (SMEs) are defined as entities with total assets of between P3m
($66,600) and P350m ($7.8m), or total liabilities between P3m ($66,600) and P250m ($5.6m). If
the entity is a parent company, such amounts will be based on consolidated figures. Other
entities classed as SMEs are those not required to file financial statements under Part II of SRC
Rule 68; entities not in the process of issuing securities to the public market; and entities that do
not hold secondary licences. Entities that qualify based on all above criteria shall use the PFRS
for SMEs as their financial reporting framework. PFRS for SMEs are adopted by the FRSC from
the IFRS for SMEs issued by the IASB. Except for those allowed under the Rule, the SEC
requires adoption of PFRS for SMEs for entities that qualify as SMEs.

At the smallest end of the scale, micro entities are considered to be those with total assets and
liabilities below P3m ($66,600); entities not required to file financial statements under Part II of
SRC Rule 68; entities not in the process of offering securities to the public; and entities that do
not hold any secondary licences.

Micro entities may choose to use either the income tax basis or PFRS for SMEs, provided that
the financial statements shall at least consist of the statement of management’s responsibility,
auditor’s report, statement of financial position, statement of income and notes to financial
statements, all of which cover the two-year comparative periods, if applicable.

Relief From Double Taxation

Relief from double taxation is available for Philippine-sourced income received by non-resident
foreign nationals under the tax treaties that are in effect with the following countries: Australia,
Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark,
Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, India, OBG would like to thank P&A Grant Thornton for
its contribution to THE REPORT The Philippines 2016 Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea,
Kuwait, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Romania,
the Russian Federation, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the UAE, the UK, the
US and Vietnam. The new treaty with Turkey takes effect on income derived in 2016.
To avail themselves of the relief from double taxation pursuant to tax treaties, foreign nationals
must file a tax treaty relief application with the BIR.

Taxes On Imports
Customs duties are generally imposed on articles imported into the Philippines at various rates.
Certain imports may be exempt or conditionally exempt subject to certain situations. There are
also some imports that are specifically prohibited. The basis for the calculation of the duties is
the transaction value, which is subject to adjustments for certain costs. The VAT and excise
taxes for imports are also collected by the Bureau of Customs.

Local Taxes
The local government code provides for the maximum tax rates that local governments may
impose on business activities in their jurisdiction. Property tax is imposed at 1-2%, but the base
differs depending on use. For commercial and industrial properties, the tax base is 50% of the
property’s market value. The base is lower, at 40%, for agricultural properties, and 20% for
residential properties.

Special Tax Regimes

Entities registered in special economic zones are subject to a separate tax regime. They enjoy an
income tax holiday of up to eight years. Thereafter, a preferential gross income tax rate of 5% is
imposed, which is in lieu of national and local taxes, including the RCIT, MCIT and the IAET,
VAT and percentage taxes, excise taxes and DST.

The purchase of enterprises in economic zones is automatically zero-rated for VAT. Certain
authorised imports are additionally free from duties and taxes.

See also:

China, India, Russian Federation, SMEs

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Interview: Marivic Españo
How can comprehensive reform of both corporate and personal income tax rates help
boost revenue and reduce informal economic activity?
MARIVIC ESPAÑO: Studies have consistently concluded that a tax system which is fair
and easy to comply with and administer will be revenue productive. Such a revenue
boost can come from different sources: voluntary compliance by the informal sector,
increased compliance by those who are already in the tax net, increased business
activity due to greater levels of investment from both local and foreign investors, and
the multiplier effect of increased government spending resulting from an increase in
There are currently moves being made for tax reform involving lowering income tax
rates for individual and corporate taxpayers. This relief, resulting in higher net income
and take-home pay, could boost the economy through additional consumer spending.
For businesses, a higher net income means that more funds are available for business
expansion. A lower tax rate will reduce savings from tax avoidance and evasion, and
therefore provide a greater incentive to comply with tax obligations. Coupled with
administrative reforms to increase the probability of tax non-compliance being caught
and penalised, these measures could effectively help address the growing informal
economy present in the Philippines.

How have the Philippine Financial Reporting Standards (PFRS) helped make small and
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) more competitive?
ESPAÑO: The provisions under the PFRS have basically been carried over from the
International Financial Reporting Standards issued by the International Accounting
Standards Board. As such, the adoption of the PFRS by SMEs will ensure that financial
statements issued by SMEs follow internationally recognised accounting standards.
Investors should have no difficulty understanding the financial statements of SMEs,
since they are governed by the same accounting standards adopted by other countries.
Moreover, investors will be able to compare the financial statements of an SME in the
Philippines with SMEs from other countries, as well as large corporations. Investors will
be able to evaluate financial statements prepared by SMEs under the PFRS more easily,
and this will hopefully encourage investment.
What tax regime reforms can prepare the Philippines for the risks generated by cross-
border trade and enhance international tax planning?
ESPAÑO: Big companies are generally able to plan their transactions well to benefit
from differences in taxation in various jurisdictions and are keen to invest in
jurisdictions that provide lower tax rates. Being a relatively high tax jurisdiction, the
Philippines should therefore be more cautious in ensuring that income is properly
attributed to Philippine entities. It is in the best interest of the country to ensure that
the tax rules concerning cross-border transactions are clear and can be easily
The Philippines can also benefit greatly from a higher level of cooperation with the
international community. There have been moves to harmonise cross-border tax
initiatives under the OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project. The BEPS
package addresses the issue of taxes being lost due to loopholes in existing
international rules that allow corporate profits to disappear or be artificially shifted to
low or no-tax environments, where little or no economic activity takes place.

In view of the BEPS initiative, greater efficiency in the administration of tax rules and
regulations should be the focus of tax reform, rather than just lower tax rates that
enable the Philippines to be competitive with its neighbours. Clearer and consistent
rules will be of benefit to the country, as well as to companies that conduct business in
different jurisdictions.

See also:


Anchor text:

Marivic Españo

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