One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic is the shift from face-to-face meetings and gatherings to virtual or online spaces. While a face-to-face meeting is the preferred mode in business to meet and built trust, the year 2020 has forced almost everyone to resort to virtual meetings to get the job done, including the tax authorities.
Recently, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) issued Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) No. 130-2020 on the use of digital or online mediums as alternatives to holding face-to-face meetings/conferences. The RMC provides guidelines for the orderly and uniform conduct of online meetings/conferences aimed to give protection to both revenue officials and taxpayers from the COVID-19 virus.
Under the RMC, the BIR shall host the conduct of all online meetings/conferences with taxpayers and representatives. In hosting said meetings/conferences, the revenue officials and employees shall use only their prescribed BIR email address in sending meeting invitations.
In addition, all meetings/conferences must be pre-approved in writing by the concerned Division Chief for the National Office, Regional Director for Regional Offices, and Revenue District Officer for Revenue District Offices (RDO). Revenue officials and employees initiating the conduct of meetings/conferences must file a memorandum request stating the following information:
1. Name of taxpayer and/or authorized taxpayer/s’ representative;
2. Taxpayer Identification Number;
3. Name of persons who will attend the online meeting/conference (for both the BIR and
for the taxpayer stating therein their official positions);
4. Date and time of the meeting;
5. Agenda; and
6. Details of Assessment: eLOA No., Date, Taxable year covered (if applicable).
If the taxpayers’ representative will attend the online meeting, he/she should have a duly notarized Special Power of Attorney (SPA) from the taxpayer. Representatives with BIR Certificate of Accreditation pursuant to Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 11- 2006, as amended, are also required to present a SPA.
Also, meetings shall only be conducted if the taxpayers requested the virtual meeting schedule through the BIR eAppointment System. In the BIR eAppointment system, the taxpayer must click "Agree" to BIR eAppointment user agreement. For those BIR offices with no BIR eAppointment facility, a duly accomplished BIR virtual meeting agreement shall be submitted instead. The agreement basically lays out the terms, conditions, and rules (e.g. observance of proper meeting etiquette, confidentiality, and privacy of the user) that the taxpayer needs to follow during the conduct of the virtual meeting.
The RMC likewise provides that the virtual meetings and proceedings are strictly confidential. The BIR mandated that recording of the meetings in whatever form is strictly prohibited in order to ensure that no untoward divulgence or disclosure may happen. Any unauthorized recording or disclosure shall be subject to appropriate criminal, civil, and administrative liability.
In an unlikely event of power interruption and/or poor connectivity, both parties may reschedule the online meeting to another date and time.
The BIR's initiative to adopt an online medium as an alternative to holding face-to-face meetings shows the BIR’s commitment to keep in touch with the reality on the ground. Hopefully, the additional platform will help ease everyone's transition into the new normal.
Currently, the BIR eAppointment System can already set virtual meetings for Large Taxpayers (e.g. taxpayers under the jurisdiction of the Regular Large Taxpayer Audit Division I, Regular Large Taxpayer Audit Division II). Moving forward, the BIR may also want to consider expanding coverage of the RMC to RDOs to further assist the cooperation between revenue officers and taxpayers navigating challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jose Bernard V. Basallaje is a Manager 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.
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