Taxmen must innovate on tax surveillance for remote work

Taxmen must innovate on tax surveillance for remote work

Jun 25, 2022, 9:20 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz


Instead of forcing onsite work for those in cognitive jobs, the tax agencies should innovate ways to monitor and surveil compliance of remote or hybrid work arrangements. This as the deadline granted by the Fiscal and Incentives Review Board for BPOs to hold onsite work ends in September.

With an increasing preference for remote or hybrid work—9 out of 10based on a survey of 8,184 workers by Sprout Solutions in January—especially among BPO worker, the tax agencies should innovate ways to strengthen tax surveillance and compliance in hybrid or remote work arrangements.

This as the deadline of the Fiscal and Incentives Review Board for Business Process Outsourcing workers to work onsite or risk losing their companies’ tax perks becomes effective in September 2022.

The Asian Development Bank said cognitive jobs requiring data interpretation, analysis, and creative thinking — characteristics that are prevalent among higher educated and more skilled workers — can be done from home, said a Business World story.

“What we see globally is that enterprises and workers in information-related occupations are shifting towards hybrid and even remote work arrangements,” said Sameer Khatiwada, ADB Southeast Asia’s social sector specialist.

Despite the global trend of hybrid or remote work, BPOsin the Philippines that operate in economic zones will be required to operate on location by September 2022, when the extension of the work-from-home set-up approved by the FIRB ends.

Instead of requiring onsite work to allow the effective monitoring of fiscal incentives, Khatiwada said that “tax agencies will need to create innovative ways to strengthen tax surveillance and compliance in hybrid or remote work arrangements.”

Cognitive jobs that can be done remotely include product design, software development, and call center operations. Back-office operations can also be done from home, although these are at risk of automation, according to Khatiwada.

Cognitive vs manual jobs

In a May 17 ADB blog, he differentiated cognitive jobs from manual jobs that cannot be done from home, such as driving a truck or waiting tables at a café.

According to a 2012 study in the Philippine Review of Economics that examined 427 occupations, only 8–10 percent have all tasks classified as remote; 35–37 percent cannot be done remotely. The rest are a combination of onsite and remote tasks.

The pandemic hit some occupations harder than others. Service sectors such as those in food and transportation were casualties of the lockdown and physical distancing measures. So were those in manufacturing and construction who had to cope with these disruptions.

Social protection

Self-employed workers were hit harder than their salaried counterparts, per ADB’s December 2021 research on the Southeast Asian labor market. The study noted that this segment tends to be in the informal sector, and that those who were lower-skilled were less likely to shift to teleworking.

As such, they face a higher risk of unemployment and income loss during times of crisis.

Freelancers can make their incomes more crisis-proof if they can diversify their clients, including by expanding their skillsets to related areas, Khatiwada said.

“The pandemic has also highlighted that — given the non-standard form of employment contracts of freelancers — many were ineligible for government support and the safety nets put in place during the pandemic,” he added.
“There is a need to rethink and build more comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable employment or income insurance schemes moving forward,” he continued.

Either an expanded social unemployment insurance or an income protection scheme can be enacted by the government to support all workers’ transition to the “future of work,” according to Kelly Bird, Philippines country director for ADB.


“Two alternative models that could be applicable to the Philippines is the Malaysian employment insurance scheme and the Chilean unemployment insurance scheme, [the latter of which] comprises of individual savings accounts and a government Solidarity Fund,” he said adding that the second intervention is enterprise-based skills development schemes that allow workers access to lifelong skills training.

He said the ADB is collaborating with the departments of trade and industry, labor and employment, and tourism to pilot SkillsUpNet Philippines.

“This will provide grant funding to networks of enterprises in priority sectors to skill up or reskill workers and job seekers,” he said.

With these, “networks can incorporate digital skills training, which [in turn] can support hybrid work arrangements.”

Khatiwada said “remote work is not possible without connectivity, so governments need to prioritize investments in infrastructure that allow workers to be productive in a hybrid setting.”

Tags: #remoteandhybridwork, #cognitivejobs, #ADB, #labor

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