THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is requiring even small businesses to file their withholding tax certificates online amid ongoing lockdown restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is to lessen face-to-face transactions with the office,” BIR Deputy Commissioner Marissa O. Cabreros said via Viber message.

Under Revenue Regulations No. 16-2021 issued on Aug. 3, the requirement to file withholding tax certificates online “shall apply to all taxpayers whether or not registered with the Large Taxpayers Service (LTS) of the BIR.”

Taxpayers are required to scan the original copies of their BIR Forms 2307 and 2316 and store such documents under the submission facilities of the BIR, with the name formats prescribed by the agency.

BIR Form 2307 is the certificate of creditable tax withheld at source, while BIR Form 2316 is the certificate of compensation payment/tax withheld.

Prior to the issuance of the regulation, only large corporations were required to file these documents online.

“RR No. 16-2021 is consistent with the BIR’s efforts to digitalize various tax filings since the additional taxpayers covered by the requirement do not have to flock to BIR offices to manually submit hard copies or DVD-R copies of said certificates. This is not only convenient for taxpayers but also safe in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Maria Lourdes P. Lim, a tax managing partner of Isla Lipana & Co. said in a mobile phone message on Wednesday evening.

However due to limited access to computers and internet connection for some taxpayers, Ms. Lim said the BIR should provide some leniency and not impose penalty to those who may not be able to comply immediately.

Taxpayers have increased online transactions with BIR as lockdown restrictions continued.

The Department of Finance in June said the BIR has received 1.43 million online tax returns on 2020 income from January to April 15, 2021, which accounts for 99.5% of all income tax returns. These were submitted either through the BIR Electronic Filing and Payment System and Electronic BIR Forms System.

Online submission of ITRs increased by 8.75% against the 1.315 million filed digitally last year.

Meanwhile, taxes payments settled online also remained elevated at P573 billion as of April 30. This accounted for 83% of P689 billion in collections for the year to April 15.

The agency is working on various projects to boost its digitalization, including the targeted fourth-quarter completion of its implementation of the Internal Revenue Integrated System, which is a central and repository tool to process taxpayers’ information. — Luz Wendy T. Noble