December 2023

SGV thought leadership on pressing issues faced by chief executives in today’s economic landscape. Articles are published every Monday in the Economy section of the BusinessWorld newspaper.
18 December 2023 Margaux A. Advincula and Michelle C. Arias

Sustainability and tax: The future is calling

The journey to sustainability started with the Industrial Revolution, when economic growth was characterized by faster and large-scale manufacturing processes. This came at the expense of a degrading environment, unhealthy labor practices, and aggressive cost-saving mechanisms.Now, sustainability has evolved into a critical key performance metric that drives long-term value for investments and embraces corporate responsibility in the use of natural resources, uplifting of social communities, and upholding accountability for regulatory obligations.As the economy moves towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), taxation plays the role of a catalyst that facilitates an enduring partnership between the government and businesses in building a competitive and resilient nation.This is the eighth and last article in our series following the 2nd SGV Tax Symposium, which focused on how a sustainable and effective tax ecosystem can advance the sustainability agenda for both the public and private sectors. This article will highlight the role of taxation in a company’s sustainability strategy that aligns with government priorities and contribute to building a better Philippines.SUSTAINABILITY AND ESGOne of the ways businesses build public trust and stakeholder confidence is by having key performance indicators (KPIs) that demonstrate their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments. Businesses that integrate ESG metrics into their sustainability strategies not only create long-term value, but also set a baseline standard for future growth.During the Conversation with the C-Suites panel at the 2nd SGV Tax Symposium, Chief Finance, Risk, and Sustainability Officer of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), June Cheryl Cabal-Revilla, said MPIC’s holistic approach to sustainability embodies a framework for economic, environmental, social, and governance (EESG) measures which are complemented by defined KPIs.“Apart from the usual economic or financial resilience, we put priority on environment and climate resilience, then on social, organizational, and community resilience because that involves all our employees and the communities around us who are also our customers. Lastly, we focus on governance and reputational resilience, which cut across everything that we do. That has been our way of life for three to four years now. It has been embraced by everyone in the company/group,” Ms. Cabal-Revilla said. In addition, they have already incorporated sustainability in planning their capital expenditures.According to Ms. Cabal-Revilla, “there is a desire for governmental entities to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the essence of sustainability. This desire emphasizes EESG principles, their impact, and the ability to echo their critical nature to the greater public.”Although businesses have the influence and tools to create positive outcomes, it takes a whole-of-society approach sustained by long-term government support to meet the challenges of sustainability.TAX AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITYAlongside regulations, taxation is also a key tool in promoting sustainable development practices and in impeding activities harmful to the environment through targeted fiscal incentives and punitive taxes. According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), environmentally related taxes “provide incentives for further efficiency gains, green investment and innovation and shifts in consumption patterns.”In the Philippines, businesses can be partners of the government in its green campaign by aligning their investments and projects with the priority sectors of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and Board of Investments (BoI). Green industries such as renewable energy projects, energy efficiency activities, and eco-industrial park development, among others, are also eligible for incentives. These highlight the administration’s goal to make the Philippines a regional hub for globally competitive, innovative, and sustainability-driven industries.In addition to tax incentives, the government can also potentially explore imposing additional charges for environmental and health damage. Such punitive taxes can stimulate businesses and consumers to seek cleaner solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously raising revenue to fund vital government social services.TAX AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITYTaxation also contributes to the social externalities of economic activity by creating and/or attracting investments that create employment opportunities in rural and less developed areas, build infrastructure to support trade and industry, and sustain government and private expenditures for education, health, and social welfare activities.TAX AND TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNANCEProper tax governance in ensuring that businesses pay a fair amount of tax is an issue held highly not only in local tax audit and enforcement programs, but also globally given recent regulatory developments against base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS).The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), under the leadership of Commissioner Romeo Lumagui, Jr., embodies this principle on sustainability with its four pillars: excellent taxpayer service; integrity in the revenue service; audit and enforcement; and digitalization. Guided by these pillars, the BIR aims to protect the interests of the government and its stakeholders, and at the same time foster a business climate that is conducive to growth, diversification and profitability.In alignment with the BIR’s priority programs, companies reinforce their own governance with an oversight mechanism that upholds accountability for tax planning and decisions made around its tax compliance and reporting.SUSTAINABILITY AS COLLABORATIVE EFFORTThe road to sustainability is not just one person’s journey. It requires a collective effort from the government, the private sector, and the taxpaying public who must all work hand-in-hand to achieve the Philippines’ sustainable development goals for a strong and better future.The 2nd SGV Tax Symposium, in relaunching the SGV Tax Vision, articulates on the interdependency among taxpayers, regulators, and tax practitioners who each play a significant and complementary role in enabling businesses and driving socio-economic growth for the whole country.In a sustainable tax ecosystem, taxpayers embody a culture of integrity with their knowledge on tax rules and a better appreciation of their social responsibility and commitment to nation-building by paying the correct taxes.Regulators enable taxpayers to align their expenditures with government priorities and contribute the most in meeting desired outcomes. This is achieved by providing detailed and specific policies and regulations with clear accountability and measurable targets, produced in close collaboration with concerned industries and affected communities.Tax practitioners support taxpayers and regulators alike by being equipped with the necessary skills to competently explain tax rules while upholding the value of integrity. They thereby foster an environment where taxpayers are compliant, government can deliver on its commitments, the public can access job opportunities, businesses can realize their long-term value, and the Philippines becomes a conducive place for investment.While the factors that drive sustainability changes arise from different backgrounds, in the end, consistent and continuous collaboration is vital to attaining effective and long-term sustainable development, growth and resiliency. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.Margaux A. Advincula is a tax partner and head of the SGV Clark Office, and Michelle C. Arias is a tax senior director.

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11 December 2023 Jules E Riego

Uncomplicating tax compliance

The Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) 2022 Annual Report reflected a total of 47.4 million registered taxpayers in the Philippines from various segments. Of those, 58% are individual taxpayers who paid their taxes through the withholding tax of the compensation system, or through voluntary filing and payment of their tax returns for sole proprietors and individuals engaged in professional practices.Through the voluntary filing and payment system, corporate and individual taxpayers contributed 98.12% of the BIR’s total tax collection for the year. For 2023, the taxpaying public will further support the Marcos Administration’s P5.268 trillion National Budget, which focuses on further mitigating the effects of the pandemic, improving transportation, and empowering Local Government Units (LGUs). Clearly, responsible taxpayers are the backbone of our country.This is the seventh article in our series following the 2nd SGV Tax Symposium, which focused on how a sustainable and effective tax ecosystem can advance the sustainability agenda for both the public and private sectors. This article will discuss the Ease of Paying Tax (EoPT) Bill and how it aims to encourage the compliance of taxpayers in tax-related government processes.In September, the reconciled version of the EoPT Bill was approved by the Senate. This measure will provide practical and meaningful relief to all taxpayers and encourage tax compliance.FILE AND PAY ANYWHEREThe best feature of the EoPT Bill allows taxpayers to manually or electronically file and pay their taxes anywhere. This will bring about immeasurable taxpayer convenience as it will do away with the need to line up to file and pay taxes at the particular BIR office where the taxpayer is registered. It offers taxpayers greater flexibility while also promoting sustainability. One of the landmark features of the EoPT bill is that it no longer imposes the burdensome 25% surcharge for filing at the wrong venue; taxpayers will be able to file and pay in any Revenue District Office (RDO) near them or any BIR-Accredited Agent Bank (AAB) in their vicinity. EFPS filers in particular need not worry about hefty surcharges and interest penalties for filing at the wrong venue whenever they experience system downtimes during quarterly and annual tax filing.EXEMPTION FROM OBLIGATION TO WITHHOLDThe EoPT Bill will formally institutionalize taxpayer classification into 1) Micro taxpayers (earning less than P3M annually); 2) Small taxpayers (earning P3M to P20M); 3) Medium taxpayers (earning P20M to P1B); and 4) Large taxpayers (earning P1B and above).The classification is critical for those classified as micro taxpayers since the EoPT Bill exempts them from withholding taxes on their income payments, saving them critical tax compliance costs. Moreover, micro and small taxpayers will benefit from the reduced surcharge of 10% (instead of 25%) for failure to file a tax return or neglecting to file a correct return, a reduced interest penalty from 12% to 6%, and a 50% reduction in compromise penalty for violations of invoicing requirements and printing of invoices.The annual business registration fee payment of P500, a significant amount for micro businesses, is also done away with.SHIFT TO VALUE ADDED TAX (VAT) BASED ON ACCRUAL AND VAT INVOICEOne of the biggest changes from the EoPT Bill affects service occupations like restaurants, hotels and individuals exercising their profession, as the remittance of their output VAT liability will shift from collection (gross receipts) basis to accrual basis. The bill, however, provides leeway to deduct the output tax paid from uncollected accounts come the succeeding quarter’s VAT return filing, should the billed amounts remain unpaid after the due date for their payment. The other condition is that output VAT should not have been claimed as a deduction against the taxpayer’s gross income as an expense for income tax purposes.This shift will benefit everyone in terms of when to recognize input VAT, as there will now be a uniform rule that input VAT can be recognized upon receipt of the VAT invoice.Speaking of invoices, the EoPT bill will also do away with the issuance of official receipts. This means that for all transactions, whether for sale of services or sale of goods, taxpayers need only issue BIR-registered invoices, bringing us up to par with international best practices. Invoices are no longer required to indicate business style as well. Common mistakes in complying with some of the invoicing requirements will not necessarily lead to the disallowance of input taxes, provided that the errors do not pertain to amount of sales, amount of VAT, name and TIN of both seller and buyer, date of transaction and description of the goods or services sold.SIMPLIFYING VAT REFUNDSThe EoPT Bill seeks to implement more improvements in the process of VAT refunds by classifying VAT refund applications as low, medium and high-risk claims. This further streamlines the process and requirements for low-risk claims (akin to the “green lane” of the BoC) to ensure that VAT refunds are granted within 90 days or less, saving costs and litigation for claimants.Under the EoPT bill, taxpayers will be given the option to elevate their claims to the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) within 30 days if it takes the BIR more than 90 days to issue a decision on a refund claim.TAX COMPLIANCE MADE MORE CONVENIENTThe EoPT Bill was endorsed for the President’s signature on Dec. 6, 2023. It will lapse into law after 30 days, unless sooner signed by the President, which means there may still be changes to it. While the EoPT Bill is not a revenue-raising measure, it is instead intended to lower tax compliance costs while enhancing tax compliance efficiency. Through these changes, the bill aims to enhance the trust and confidence of Filipino taxpayers in tax-related government processes.Through these measures, we can see how the government is taking steps to demonstrate that tax compliance, while still an obligation, does not have to be an onerous one. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co. or EY.Jules E. Riego is the ASEAN business Tax Services leader of Ernst & Young (EY) and the Private Tax Head of SGV & Co.

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04 December 2023 Jonald R. Vergara and Donelle Jay A. Quilates

Public-private partnerships reboot

Infrastructure development continues to be a key focus of the government to sustain economic growth — and rightfully so as it enhances market access, attracts investments, and creates jobs. But with significant capital needed for infrastructure projects, the government by itself may not be able to fund the required expenditures.Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with companies addresses this key challenge. In addition to private-sector funding, PPP arrangements share the risks involved and reduce cost to the government.While the Philippines is regarded as the first Asian country to institutionalize the participation of the private sector in its infrastructure development projects, according to a publication by Asian Development Bank (ADB), a number of challenges abound in the implementation of PPP projects. These include a clear legal and regulatory framework, the efficient resolution of land acquisition and right-of-way issues in public transport projects, and time constraints in participating in unsolicited proposals.This is the sixth article in our series following the 2nd SGV Tax Symposium, which focused on how a sustainable and effective tax ecosystem can advance the sustainability agenda for both the public and private sectors. This article will discuss the PPP landscape in the Philippines and ongoing government initiatives to improve it. THE PPP LANDSCAPEIn the 2nd SGV Tax Symposium held on Oct. 25, the PPP Center speaker presented its policy initiatives to support PPPs which are sustainable and climate resilient. PPP Governing Board Resolution No. 2018-12-02 aims to facilitate the review process of the implementing agencies in PPP projects prescribing safeguards under prevailing laws. The Resolution aids the implementing agency in identifying requirements and ensuring safeguards are accounted for in a project’s feasibility study, ensuring the approved terms in the PPP contract consider the safeguards and measures to mitigate identified concerns, and prescribing monitoring, evaluation and feedback for the safeguards embedded in the PPP contract as described in Section 2.2 under the PPP Governing Board Resolution.The speaker also discussed the Resilience Roadmaps and Investment Portfolios for Risk Resilience (IPRR) developed by the PPP Center together with ADB and the Urban Climate Change Resiliency Trust Fund. The IPRRs include PPP projects in localities which are susceptible to climate change impacts. As the infrastructure is expected to be long term, PPP projects should be resilient because these will essentially provide key basic social services.ONGOING GOVERNMENT INITIATIVESIn June 2023, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. issued Executive Order (EO) 30, which changed the composition of the Public-Private Partnership Governing Board (PPPGB) to include a member from the private sector. The PPPGB is the overall policy making body on all PPP related matters, sets the strategic direction of the PPP Program, and creates an enabling policy and institutional environment for PPP. This addition seeks to empower the private sector to actively participate and help provide insights to the policy formulation and implementation by the PPPGB moving forward.More recently, both the Senate and House ratified the Bicameral Conference Committee Report covering the PPP Code of the Philippines which reconciled House Bill 6527 and Senate Bill 2233. The proposed bill, which is awaiting the signature of the President, consolidates existing legal and regulatory framework governing PPP projects.Among the highlights of the proposed PPP Code include:• Allowing unsolicited proposals in the list of PPP projects without requiring new concept or technology, subject to reimbursement of the government’s development costs.• Updating project approval thresholds for Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) projects (previously fixed 29 years ago) and giving authority to the NEDA Investment Coordination Committee to review, evaluate, and update these threshold amounts.• Upholding local autonomy while providing mechanisms to ensure harmonized investment programming between local government units and the National Government.• Establishing a clear pathway for the issuance of franchise exacting toll fees, fares, rentals and other charges and allowing the private contractor to recover any shortfall consistent with the agreed PPP contract and prevailing laws, rules and regulations.• Restricting provisional injunctive reliefs issued by lower courts subject to limited exceptions to ensure continuity in project evaluation and implementation. • Strengthening the enabling institutions for PPPs particularly the PPP Center, which is granted additional powers and functions towards a more efficient and effective performance of its mandate.PPPs AS A MEANS TO MANAGE INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTSASEAN countries have shown increasing interest in PPPs as a way to fund and manage infrastructure projects. Studies show a direct correlation between infrastructure and gross domestic product (GDP) growth. According to a study by the World Bank, higher infrastructure growth generally equates to higher GDP growth, especially in developing countries.The ADB projects that Asia will need to invest $26 trillion from 2016 to 2030 if it is to “maintain its growth momentum, eradicate poverty, and respond to climate change.” Comprehensively, it is important to meet the funding demand for infrastructure projects in the succeeding years to augment or stimulate the country’s production and protract its GDP growth trajectory.The PPP Center has identified 106 PPP projects in the pipeline with total estimate project cost of P2.5 trillion from solicited and unsolicited proposals covering both local and national projects.  Some of the notable ones include key infrastructure projects such as the NAIA PPP covering the rehabilitation, operation, optimization, and maintenance of NAIA airport, the Metro Manila Subway PPP covering operation and maintenance (O&M), North-South Commuter Railway O&M PPP, the Mindanao Railway project, the MRT 7 Project, and the Laguna Lake Rehabilitation and Development project. It is also promising to see proposed projects involving local government units covering bulk water supply and septage, waste to energy, subway and expressway, as well as reclamation and development.The importance of PPP projects is emphasized by the fact that existing laws and regulations such as the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law, as implemented by the Strategic Investments Priorities Plan, grant tax incentives to qualified PPP projects. These incentives include income tax holidays with a maximum of seven years, enhanced deductions from gross income, enhanced net operating loss carryover, as well as duty and tax exemption on imports of capital equipment.IMPROVING ECONOMIC GROWTH THROUGH PPPWhile the Philippines is trying to catch up with its neighbors in infrastructure development, ongoing initiatives of the government spearheaded by the PPP Center, legislation from Congress, and the support of both foreign and local institutions are set to help reel in funding from the private sector and drive future PPP projects. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.Jonald R. Vergara is a tax principal of SGV & Co., and Donelle Jay A. Quilates is a tax senior director of SGV & Co.

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