By: Arianne Keith Velasquez, CPA
Battling with the unseen opponent due to the COVID-19 is the greatest struggle Philippines and the rest of the world has been dealing with the past months which sprouted to different socio-economic problems especially those in the business sector. Employers are in constant search of the best formula to meet the needs of its employees without compromising the continuance of the business in a long term perspective.
With the existence of the fixed costs in the pursuit of business, employers tend to be out and about in the generation of income even at this trying time through working remotely in order to meet the essential needs not only of the entity but also its main asset — manpower.
Pursuant to the approval of Republic Act No. 11469, popularly known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, last March 24, 2020, Presidential power has been granted to move statutory deadlines and timelines for the filing and submission of any document, payment of taxes, fees and other charges required by law to control mass people from going out and to ease the burden on finances during the implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
As it is the responsibility of the employer to report employees, withhold and remit contributions on a timely basis in order to qualify employees in the application of government benefits, below are updates on the remittance deadlines in line with the above Act.
- Social Security System
Few days after the approval of the aforementioned Act, the Social Security System (SSS) advised on the extension of the deadline of monthly remittance of contributions applicable to all employers, self-employed, voluntary, and non-working spouse members.
Based on SSS Circular No. 2020-006, contributions for the applicable periods February to April may be paid until June 1, 2020, penalty-free. In addition, SSS Circular No. 2020-007 granted moratorium period for the short-term loan of members without the need to file for an application or formal request for the same applicable periods and may be paid until June 30, 2020.
- Philippine Health Insurance Corporation
Being the government branch established to provide aid for health security to the community, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) has not issued advisory regarding the extension of contributions which by presumption is due to the need of circulating funds to support the patients confirmed positive of COVID-19 and especially for the wellness of the healthcare workers being in the frontline of the battlefield.
As the Accredited Collecting Agents (ACAs) or the accredited banks are operating on a skeletal workforce, employers can still pay over-the-counter.
However, PHIC advised last March 23, 2020 through Circular No. 2020-008 that employers will now be required to remit contributions through the online banking facility of the ACAs starting June 2020. Employers are given a transitory period of no more than six (6) months to remit via over-the-counter to provide a leeway in the processing of enrollment with the bank thereafter, strict compliance will be required.
- Home Development Mutual Fund
Currently, Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) branches are closed which makes it impossible for employers to remit contributions since the effectivity of the community quarantine last March 15, 2020. No official advisory yet has been issued on the imposition of penalties should the contributions be paid after the lifting of ECQ in Luzon.
On the other hand, the HDMF Board of Trustees immediately voted for a grant of three-month loan moratorium for housing, calamity and multi-purpose loans to the members who are greatly affected by the crisis (such as those who are employed under a temporary closed business) which payments are due on March 16 to June 15, 2020. Eligible borrowers may start to apply for the moratorium after the lifting of ECQ until June 15, 2020.
Furthermore, in accordance with the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the said Act above, a grace period is provided for all members with loan payments due within the ECQ period and its extension which entails that such may be paid after lifting of the quarantine period without penalty. This is mandatory thus no application is being required unlike with the moratorium which has the eligible borrower application to undergo evaluation phase before entitlement.
In relation to the above, employers who are able to pay the said contributions through online banking facilities are encouraged to remit on a monthly basis even in the effectivity of deadline extensions in order to aid the government generate funds in addressing the needs of the community both in welfare and financial against the pandemic.
Republic Act No. 11469 (Bayanihan to Heal as One Act)
SSS Circular No. 2020-006
SSS Circular No. 2020-007
PhilHealth Circular No. 2020-008