WFH employees deserve additional benefits

WFH employees deserve additional benefits"A senator says he has a win-win solution for both employers and employees."


This one makes sense.

Earlier this week, Senator Francis Tolentino said he would file a bill seeking to amend the National Internal Revenue Code and the Telecommuting Act to provide additional tax deduction benefits to workers forced to work from home during quarantine.

And of course, they deserve that.

Tolentino noted that the community quarantine imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic forced ordinary workers to work from home incurred them additional electricity expenses while their employers enjoyed lower expenses.

According to the lawmaker, he will file on Monday a “win-win” measure for both employees and employers, and even for the government, as it would still collect Value Added Taxes from electric bills.

“What I am contemplating to file on Monday is to amend the tax structure in such a way that those who are working outside their usual offices would now be granted a fixed monthly tax deduction when they pay their income tax or the employer will just give a fixed amount to their employees working at their homes,” Tolentino said.

The additional benefit for the employees, Tolentino adds, will then be considered as business expenses and thereafter deductible on the part of the employer, thus “a win-win situation for both employees and employers.” 

Tolentino said he was looking at three options for the proposal, including requiring the employee to attach a form in his or her income tax return indicating how much the deduction should be, requiring employers to compute such deductions due at the end of the tax year, requiring employers to give a fixed amount to employees every month as subsidy for the latter’s electricity expenses.

While many will argue that the employees who were forced to work from home got savings from their provisions for transportation expenses as they no longer have to leave the comforts of their home while working, it should also be noted that other overhead expenses for the business establishments, aside from electricity, were also passed on to them like water, office supplies, maintenance of office and its equipment including its depreciation from use, etc.

And since these are all expenses business establishments used to charge to their expenditures but which ware now being shouldered by the work-from-home employees, it is but right that they be given additional benefits, also passable as expenses for the companies.

No additional losses for the companies and the government and no additional burden for the employees.

* * *

Still on electricity.

Last Monday, the Manila Electric Co. assured lawmakers that customers are only charged for electricity they actually consumed and pledged that the Philippines’ largest power distributor will clarify concerns caused by estimated bills between March and May, the period when the government imposed an enhanced community quarantine to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Meralco President, lawyer Ray Espinosa, a clarificatory letter will be sent out to customers soon, particularly those whose meters were read in May but whose bills contain a previous reading that is actually based on estimated March and/or April consumption. 

At the same time, Espinosa assured everyone “there is no intention on the part of Meralco to charge a customer and have that customer pay more than the actual consumption registered in the meter,” at the same time apologizing for what he described for Meralco’s “short coming as far as the May bills are concerned which has really caused confusion because of estimates.” 

Meralco had earlier issued several explanations through various traditional and social media platforms to detail the bill estimations done for March, April, and, in some cases, May in compliance with the Energy Regulatory Commission rules for cases when meter readers can’t be deployed. 

In fact, Espinosa said Meralco even went beyond the coverage of ERC’s advisory, which only starts from March 16 and ends on May 31 as Meralco even included customer bills due from March 1.

He also said that Meralco has implemented a moratorium on service disconnection until September 30 this year.

As an added service to its clienteles, Espinosa also announced that the company will now shoulder the Meralco Online convenience fee for online payments, for the entire ECQ and GCQ period, and will correspondingly refund the amount paid by customers when they previously settled their electricity bills.

I personally agree that these bills generated by estimates have cause so much confusion as they were far from accurate. One of my friends who was caught in their Rizal abode during the lockdown was charged with her monthly bill consumption in the condo unit in Cubao when there was actually no one staying there during the entire duration of the quarantine.

Some were even under-billed for the months of March and April as they were only based on their previous consumption even as their electric usage had surged when they were forced to work from home, resorting to downloading movies, playing online games, etc. thus the bill-shock when the previous under-billing was included in the May bill when their meters were actually read.

Anyway, I am optimistic these “shortcomings” will be corrected as Mr. Espinosa had assured us. Even Joe Zaldarriaga, Meralco vice president and spokesman, has assured us that he will see to it we will not pay a single centavo for any electricity we have not consumed.

And I see no reason not to believe him.

Topics: Francis Tolentino , National Internal Revenue Code , Telecommuting Act , work from home
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