Estate-tax changes under TRAIN law

ON December 19, 2017, package 1 of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), otherwise known as Republic Act (RA) 10963, was signed into law.

The law made several amendments to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 (Tax Code), specifically on personal-income taxation, passive income, estate tax, donor’s tax, value-added tax, excise tax and documentary stamp tax. The law took effect on January 1, following its complete publication in the official gazette. Below is a brief discussion of the changes under estate taxation under the Train law.

I. Amendment of the Estate Tax Rate

Section 22 of the TRAIN law amends Section 84 of the Tax Code, which provides for the estate-tax rate. Previously, a  tax based on the value of the net estate of the decedent, whether resident or nonresident of the Philippines, was computed based on a tax schedule where an estate worth P200,000 and over was taxed from 5 percent to 20 percent. Under the TRAIN law, it will now be subject to a flat rate of 6 percent.

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II. Amendments on Estate Tax Deductions

Section 23 of the TRAIN law amends Section 86 of the Tax Code, which provides for the computation of the net estate or, effectively, the deductions allowed to the gross estate of an individual.

The TRAIN law removes funeral expenses, judicial expenses and medical expenses as allowable deductions.

Instead, the law increases the Standard Deduction to P5 million, which previously only amounted to P1 million. Only available to citizens (resident or nonresident) and resident aliens, TRAIN law now provides that nonresident aliens can avail themselves of a standard deduction, although only up to P500,000.

Another  TRAIN law significant change from the old tax rule is that now, family homes that are worth up to P10 million will be exempted from estate tax. Previously, only family homes worth P1 million are exempted.

III. Amendments on the Procedure for Estate Tax Settlement

A. Repeal of Filing of Notice of Death provision

Section 24 of the TRAIN law repeals Section 89 of the Tax Code. The repealed provision provides for when a notice of death should be filed and the period to file the same.

B. Amendment on Filing of Estate Tax Return

Section 25 of the TRAIN law amends Section 90 of the Tax Code, which provides for the procedural requirements for the estate-tax return.

The TRAIN law requires that estate-tax returns showing a gross value exceeding P5 million must be certified by a certified public accountant. This is P3 million higher than the old tax rule, which only required CPA certifications for estate-tax returns that exceed a gross value of P2 million. The TRAIN law has also increased the period for filing of estate-tax returns from six months from the decedent’s death to one year.

C. Amendment of Payment of Estate Tax by Installment

Section 26 of the TRAIN law amends Section 91(c) of the Tax Code, which provides for the payment of estate tax by installment.

Under the TRAIN law, payment by installment has been particularly simplified. However, the law has provided for an implied limitation of two years for the payment of the full estate-tax liability, which was previously not contained in the old tax rule.

IV. Amendment on Withdrawals from Deceased’s Bank Account

Section 27 of TRAIN Law amends Section 97 of the Tax Code, which concerns allowable withdrawals from the deceased person’s account.

Under the old Tax Rule, only withdrawals up to P20,000 are allowed. The administrator of the estate or any one of the heirs may, when authorized by the commissioner, withdraw an amount not exceeding P20,000. However, the Train Law has increased allowable withdrawals from the deceased person’s account to any amount, subject to a 6-percent final withholding tax.

The amendments on estate taxes were enacted with the end in view of enticing the heirs to declare the real value of their deceased kin’s estate and to pay the proper estate tax.  Filing requirements have also been made simpler and filer-friendly. It remains to be seen whether collection of estate taxes will improve.

But, as the saying goes, “You can bring the horse to the water, but you cannot force the horse to drink!”

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