Let’s Talk Tax
By Edward L. Roguel
Digital transformation has been a buzzword in the business community for years now, and its importance was emphasized when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. As COVID-19 affects businesses globally, business entities must find ways to continue their operations despite the government restrictions that were enforced to ensure public health and safety. Accordingly, for some companies COVID-19 became the main driver behind their digital transformation journey.
Having a computerized accounting system is vital in a company’s digital transformation. However, when I tell our clients, especially foreign clients, that they need to secure from the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) a “permit to use” (PTU) a computerized accounting system (CAS) beforehand, they observe that this is not a common practice in other countries. Other countries do not require registration of CAS while others only need to wait for the system to be accredited; once the accounting system is approved, all companies using such a system no longer need to secure a permit to use.
In the Philippines, however, there is a two-step process before a taxpayer can use a CAS. First, the CAS must be accredited, and second, the company that will use it needs to secure a PTU for the accredited CAS.
Securing a PTU begins with submitting an application with a number of documentary requirements. The CAS will then be scheduled for a system demonstration, which involves a walk-through of the CAS. Most of the time, getting on the system demonstration schedule is a challenge considering the volume of the applications that the BIR technical team is processing. After the system demonstration, taxpayer-applicants must address the issues or concerns, if any, identified by the BIR-evaluators. Afterwards, upon recommendation of the technical working group (TWG), the CAS accreditation will be approved by the Accreditation Board, and finally, the PTU will be issued. The timeline for securing a PTU can take a year or more.
Fortunately, in February last year, all taxpayers with pending applications for PTU were relieved when the BIR issued Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) No. 10-2020. In lieu of a PTU, the TWG Secretariat of the concerned Revenue District Office (RDO) is to issue an Acknowledgement Certificate (AC) within three days from the submission of all documentary requirements enumerated in the RMC. However, there is confusion on whether it also covers new applications filed after the effectivity of RMC No. 10-2020.
Finally, we can say goodbye to the PTU. Recently, the BIR issued RMC No. 5-2021, which provides for a simplified registration process for the CAS, computerized books of account (CBA) and/or its components, including electronic storage systems (ESS), middleware and other similar systems (collectively referred to as “system”). This RMC supersedes the provisions of RMC No. 10-2020 and certain portions of Revenue Memorandum Order (RMO) No. 29-2002.
As provided under RMC No. 5-2021, all taxpayers intending to use CAS, CBA and /or its components, including ESS, middleware and other similar systems, are not required to secure PTUs. They are, however, still required to register the System by submitting to the RDO where the taxpayer is registered all the documentary requirements as provided under Annex “A” of the RMC. These documents include the following:
• Sworn statement with attached duly accomplished summary of system description, commercial invoice/receipt, document description, among others;
• Sample print-out of principal and supplementary receipts/invoices compliant with Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 16-2018 and other accountable forms that will be used;
• Printed copy of audit trail;
• Standard functional and technical requirements; and
• Certification from the purchasing company allowing the taxpayer to use the same system, in case the license of the software to be used is under the name of the parent or affiliate.
On the other hand, the RDO must issue an AC within three days upon submission of complete documentary requirements. A system demonstration or pre-evaluation is no longer required prior to the use of the system. A post-evaluation will be conducted by the RDO to determine the compliance of the system with the standard set forth in Annex B of the RMC. Failure to comply with the standard will lead to the taxpayer-user incurring penalties provided under the existing regulations. Hence, it is important for the taxpayers to ensure that their CAS is compliant with the standard.
Annex B requires that the system reflect certain details in the printout and electronic copy of the books of account, financial statements and other system-generated reports. Among these items are the registered address where such reports are generated and the phrase “VAT REG TIN” or “NON-VAT REG TIN,” whichever is applicable, followed by the nine-digit tax identification number (TIN) plus the branch code of the taxpayer. I believe these details are not necessary since the taxpayer name should suffice. I agree that those details should be required in the invoices and receipts, but not in the books of account and other system-generated reports. What is important is to ensure the credibility of the reports.
On the other hand, one of the common concerns of taxpayers using CAS is whether all enhancements made to the system require registration. At last, this was clarified in the RMC.
The RMC specifically provides that the new registration is required only if there are “major” system enhancements. Major enhancements are those that have a direct impact on the financial aspect of the system, which include but not limited to the following:
• Change in the functionality of the system;
• Addition or removal of modules or submodules within the system;
• Change in the system/software version or release number; and
• All other enhancements deemed major system enhancements based on the recommendations of the technical evaluators after the comparative functionalities of the old and upgraded system are presented by the taxpayer.
In case of “minor” system enhancement/s, the taxpayer must submit a written notification to its RDO stating the minor enhancements on the system. Minor enhancements include user interface modification, bug fixes and performance improvements.
The effects of the pandemic continue to unfold. New strains of the COVID-19 virus have been discovered in other countries and Japan declared last week its second COVID state of emergency. Accordingly, business entities should continue to find ways to ensure that their operations, including back-office support, continue in case more drastic government restrictions are again enforced to ensure public health and safety. Hence, the streamlined policies for the registration of CAS represent a welcome development to all taxpayers adopting it. I would hope they can all fully implement their CAS before the next lockdown (but of course, I’m still praying we do not come to that point).
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.
Edward L. Roguel is a partner of the Tax Advisory & Compliance division of P&A Grant Thornton, the Philippine member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd.