Thursday, October 22, 2015

Senior citizen’s ID

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Unfortunately, while the intention of the law is to promote social justice, there are times when its implementation is afflicted by legal ambiguities. As shared by my mom, there were instances when she was denied the senior citizen’s discount (one of the benefits under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act) just because she had a “senior moment” and forgot to bring her Senior Citizen’s Identification Card (“ID”) issued by the municipality where she resides.

This practice seems to be based on Article 6 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (“IRR”) of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act which requires senior citizens or their duly authorized representatives to present the Senior Citizens’ Identification Card issued by the Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (“OSCA”). On the basis of this provision alone, the denial of senior citizens’ discounts by some suppliers, due to the failure to present a Senior Citizen’s ID, would seem to be justified.

However, this should not be the case. Article 6 of the IRR should be interpreted in harmony with Article 5.5 of the same implementing rules. Article 5.5 enumerates the identification documents that a senior citizen may use to avail of the benefits and privileges granted under the law. In fact, these documents are reiterated in Revenue Regulations (“RR”) No. 11-2015 recently issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (“BIR”).

The said regulations clarified that, in implementing the tax privileges under the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, the senior citizen may use or present any of the following documents:

• Senior Citizens’ ID issued by the OSCA in the city or municipality where the senior citizen resides;

• Philippine passport; or

• Government-issued ID which reflects the name, picture, date of birth and nationality of the senior citizen. This includes Digitized Social Security ID, Government Service Insurance System ID, Professional Regulation Commission ID, Integrated Bar of the Philippines ID, Unified Multi-Purpose ID, and Driver’s License.

Thus, based on the IRR and as clarified by the BIR, the Senior Citizens’ ID should only be one among many other documents that may be used by senior citizens in availing of the benefits and privileges granted by the law, particularly the 20% senior citizens’ discount and exemption from value-added tax (“VAT”).

To limit the entitlement of our senior citizens to the benefits granted to them, just because they failed to present the Senior Citizens’ Identification Card issued by OSCA, would be in clear contravention of the objectives and purpose of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act. Among its policy intents are to establish mechanisms whereby the contributions of the senior citizens are maximized, and to adopt measures whereby our senior citizens are assisted and appreciated by the community as a whole.

Thus, suppliers of goods and services (e.g., drug stores, hospital pharmacies, etc.) should interpret the law consistent with the legislative spirit of extending the privilege to its targeted beneficiary -- the senior citizens. After all, they can always claim the discount and the input VAT as additional items of deduction from their gross income provided they comply with the conditions set forth under the rules. This includes keeping a separate record of the sales which contains the information of the senior’s citizen’s identification document as provided by RR 11-2015.

I have read on the Internet that “To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.” (Tia Walker, The Inspired Caregiver). Hopefully, the issuance of RR No. 11-2015 (effective 15 Oct. 2015) will help clear up any confusion and give additional assurance to our senior citizens that they will be able to enjoy their benefits and privileges as accorded by law.

Maria Ysidra May Y. Kintanar-Lopez is an Assistant Manager at the Tax Services Department of Isla Lipana & Co., the Philippine member firm of PwC network.

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