by Arik Aaron C Abu
Memento mori is Latin for the phrase, “remember you must die.”
For most Filipinos, death has always been an uncomfortable subject to talk about. We would rather not discuss matters pertaining to death until it actually happens to someone we know or someone close to us. When it does happen, we are almost always caught unprepared for the worst.
Time and again, those bereaved not only have to deal with the emotional turmoil of losing a loved one, but also have to bear the heavy responsibility of settling unfinished businesses of those who have already passed on. Among these burdens, the settlement of inheritance or the estate or the distribution of properties of the decedent usually comes to mind first.
We are familiar with that hackneyed cliché about death and taxes, and through estate tax these life constants actually cross paths. Estate tax is a tax imposed on the privilege to transfer properties occasioned by death. If such taxes are not paid, then the estate will not be allowed by the government to be distributed to heirs, transferees, or beneficiaries concerned. As a consequence of non-payment of estate taxes, properties from across the country are still under the name of a deceased ancestor, and are not properly being utilized by or passed on to later generations.
But this should no longer be the case. Earlier this year, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) No. 11213, otherwise known as the Tax Amnesty Act, into law. RA No. 11213 seeks to offer amnesty on delinquent taxes, and amnesty on estate taxes. The amnesty program is being rolled out not only to encourage settlement of longstanding unpaid taxes, but also to further finance the administration’s government’s infrastructure and development initiatives.
In order to carry out the mandate of the Tax Amnesty Act for unpaid estate taxes, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has issued Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 6-2019, which provides the guidelines and procedure for applying for estate tax amnesty. Such amnesty shall cover the estate of decedents who have died on or before December 31, 2017, with or without a duly issued assessment, and whose estate taxes have remained unpaid or have accrued as of the same date. Prior to the amnesty, and under the pre-TRAIN Law Tax Code, estates with unpaid taxes will not only be subjected to the schedular rates under Section 84, but also to applicable surcharge, interest and penalties, for late payment.
With RA No. 11213 and RR No. 6-2019 in full effect, executors, administrators and legal heirs to estates, which have remained in limbo since the passing of their masters, may now seize the opportunity to settle unpaid estate taxes at a six percent (6%) amnesty tax rate based on the decedent’s net taxable estate at the time of death. The estate amnesty tax will also be paid without any penalties at every stage of transfer of properties. However, the amnesty will not be extended to delinquent estate tax liabilities that have become final and executory, those covered by tax amnesty on delinquencies, and for properties involved in cases pending in appropriate courts.
In order to avail of the estate tax amnesty, the executor, administrator, legal heirs, transferees, or beneficiaries must file the Estate Tax Amnesty Return (ETAR) (BIR Form No. 2118-EA) with the Revenue District Office (RDO) having jurisdiction over the last residence of the decedent. For non-residents, with the RDO where the executor or administrator is registered, or at his or her legal residence. Finally, for estates without executors or administrators, the ETAR must be filed with RDO No. 39 – South Quezon City,
It is important to note that estate tax amnesty must be availed of within 2 years from the effectivity of the regulations. After which, undeclared properties will again be subject to the applicable tax rates prevailing at the time of death and the corresponding penalties and interests.
The duly accomplished and sworn ETAR, Acceptance Payment Form (APF) (BIR Form No. 0621-EA), and complete documents enumerated in the ETAR shall be presented to the RDO for endorsement of APF prior to payment of the estate amnesty tax with Authorized Agent Banks or Revenue Collection Officers. After payment, the duly accomplished and sworn ETAR, APF with its corresponding proof of payment, and the complete documentary requirements shall be submitted to the RDO concerned in triplicate. Thereafter, a Certificate of Availment will be issued by the RDO within 15 calendar days from receipt of the application for estate tax amnesty.
The grant of application for estate tax amnesty also comes with the corresponding grant of immunity from the payment of all estate taxes and any increments arising from the failure to pay any and all taxes for 2017 and prior years, as well as any civil, criminal or administrative cases that may arise therefrom. Both the law and the regulations categorically state that the application for amnesty does not imply any admission of criminal, civil or administrative liability on the part of the availing estate.
As difficult as it may seem, we must remember that we will die someday. We must also remember that death also comes with responsibilities that our successors must carry out—such as settlement of estate taxes for whatever will be left behind. Hopefully, that will be a problem for much, much later.
For those who faltered in paying the taxes due from several years (or even decades) ago on estates, do not fret. Through RR No. 6-2019, the BIR encourages interested parties to settle unpaid estate taxes and truly let such estates “move on”.
Arik Aaron C. Abu is a Supervisor from the Tax Group of KPMG R.G. Manabat & Co. (KPMG RGM&Co.), the Philippine member firm of KPMG International. KPMG RGM&Co. has been recognized as a Tier 1 tax practice and Tier 1 transfer pricing practice by the International Tax Review.
This article is for general information purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice to a specific issue or entity.
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