Contract of Sale vs. Deed of Donation Which should you choose

Business Law Family Law Estate Settlement Weekly Show Episodes 16 min read , September 9, 2021

Are you transferring property to a loved one? Or is a loved one transferring property to you? What is the best way to transfer property between relatives? In the Philippines, it's typical for parents to transfer properties to their children during their lifetime... either it's a gift as an advanced inheritance. Sometimes they do this so that the properties are already transferred before they pass away.

Our question comes from Ronald P. and he asks, Attorney,

My parents are old and they want to transfer their house and lot to me so that I won't have any more problems when they die. What's the best way for them to transfer the property to me? I heard from my friends that we can choose between a sale or a donation. Which do you think is better?

If you're in a similar position as Ronald? Stick around as we answer his question.

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Welcome to Legal Guide Philippines, where we simplify the law to help you make better choices. I'm Atty. Ramon Ramirez and I are with my partner, Atty. Erwin Zagala. So today we're talking about transferring properties to loved ones. Specifically, what's the best way to transfer property from one person to another, especially if it's to or from a loved one. Now, Atty. Ramon, we've seen a lot of these situations happening where parents will transfer their properties to their kids during their lifetime so that when they die, the kids no longer need to pay taxes. When they do that, what is the best way to transfer the property?

Do we document it as a sale or as a donation? Should we execute a deed of absolute sale or a DOAS, or a deed of donation? Okay, so you're correct Atty. Erwin, this happens a lot. This transfer is usually done by parents as some sort of "tax" planning strategy.

So, why? So that their children no longer need to bear the burden of a tax that we call, right now, we call it the estate tax. which is a tax that needs to be paid when a parent dies, and before the properties can be transferred to the children. Okay, so in effect, it's some sort of "tax planning" because it's already being done by the parents.

What is a sale and what is a donation

But before we answer that question, which is better? A sale or donation? I think I'd want to tackle three things first. So you need to understand these three? Yes. So that we can understand the answer. So we can understand the answer. The first thing we want to tackle is I think it would be helpful to explain what is a sale, and what is a donation and what is the difference? Let's start with the sale.

So under, of course, for lawyers, we have to give the definition under the civil code. Okay, Atty. Ramon, read. I am the Attorney. A sale is an agreement whereby one of the parties obligates himself to deliver something to the other, who on his part, binds himself to pay, therefore for a sum of money or its equivalent. The sale is very clear.

So let's break it down. So basically it's a contract whereby one party, says, okay, I'm going to deliver something to you. Like, let's say, I'm delivering this phone. Delivering something to you. On your part, you also bind yourself to pay for whatever it is that I delivered to you.

I deliver the payment? Yes. A sum of money or its equivalent. So elements of a sale, basically, like any contract, there's the meeting of minds. There's a definite agreement between the parties with respect to the thing, our object. And the cost or price of the thing. Let's say you're selling it, I'm selling it for 100 pesos. That is our cost.

Of course, it's important that both of us have legal capacity. So I think we look like we're of age. So we have legal capacity. We have the ability to enter into legal affairs or contracts. Okay, the second element is we should have an object or a subject matter which is a determinate thing to be sold.

So in our case, it's the cell phone. So it's the determinate thing. We agree that this is the thing that will be the subject of the sale. And last is the Cause or Consideration. As I said, it's 100 pesos. It's a price, certain in money. Very clear. Okay. Now, what is a donation Atty? Erwin?

It's better if we read it. Under Article 725, a donation is an act of liberality whereby a person disposes gratuitously of a thing or right in favor of another who accepts it. It's also clear. So basically, it's an act of liberality whereby, instead of involving money, I want to, because of my liberality, I will just give you my phone. So in Tagalog, give or bestow. Yes. But you also need to accept it.

It's a requirement. Because even if you give it, what if the other party doesn't want it? I think I saw a pattern, there's two B's. What's the first B attorney, "Buy", the other one is, "Bestow" Yes. Pick between the two Bs. Okay so, the sale buys a donation is bestow. B or B. Alright, so that is the difference of a sale between the sale and donation. I hope that's clear.

Okay, so it's actually even without the legal definitions, I think it's pretty clear in our heads. B or B. All right, now and then. Okay second, the second thing I want to discuss is now, how come you can "choose your own adventure", so to speak. In terms of how to transfer something to your loved one? Usually, people say "Ah land? Which is better? Sale or Donation?"

Why was there such a big fuss between sales or donations?

Now, why did this become popular? Well, well definitely under our laws parties are definitely free to contract in whatever manner they see fit, as long as they don't violate, of course, our laws, good morals, customs, etc. they can contract. But in my experience, the reason for this "choose your own adventure" kind of thing and why it became a thing was because well before the TRAIN law, the tax rates for these two kinds of contracts, the sale, and the donation were quite different.

Ah, there is an effect to the tax Atty. Ramon. So it was kind of a tax-driven decision. So on the one hand, for a sale of property or land or whatever. Usually, this will trigger a tax called the CGT or the Capital Gains Tax Remember that, CGT. That usually just means capital gains tax. Okay, which was 6% of the fair market value or gross selling price whichever is higher.

Just remember 6% as opposed to a donation before the train law, okay? Donations at that time, it was based on graduated rates ranging from 2% to 15%, so it changes. Yes. So depending on the value of what you will donate. So depending on how much you'll donate, it becomes more expensive Yes, you cap it around 15%.

And this is for relatives only. Okay, so it is a different topic when they are not your relatives. Like for example, we are not blood relatives, Even if we are "brotha from another motha" Even in that case, we are treated as strangers.

And at that time, if I donated something to you or you donated something to me, it was a whopping 30%. Yes. It's like they don't want us to give to each other. It's like getting a penalty when you give. Anyway, so that was why it became popular, so back in the day, people, what will they do?

They'll make computations on their Excel spreadsheets and determine which is cheaper. And then on top-line -- sale, bottom line -- donation, and you'll see which one is cheaper. It's like you are pulling from memory, it looks like you've had a lot of experience computing this. And then, of course, that's what you would base. If you're a service provider, you would base your advice on that.

"Guys this is much cheaper." So Atty. Ramon, basically the main consideration before is not the type of transaction, not it's not the B or B... It was because, "How much will I pay for it?" That's why it became a big issue before --- choosing between sale or donation. Which is better? Usually made that computation. The question has finally been answered. So in many ways, it made sense to regular people to do this.

Why? Because these CGTs or capital gains tax and donor's taxes were expenses of ordinary people. People like you and me who probably work jobs work really hard for our living. Why make waste money in our minds, unnecessarily on unnecessary taxes. As supposed to be a business expense, that the business pays. While this one comes from your own pocket. That's why this became rampant and of course, add to that some experts and advisors would advise them to pick and choose the transaction.

Atty. Ramon, you've mentioned before that, when the segment started, you said, "... before the train law" Yes. And now, the TRAIN law is in operation. So my big question is, and I'm that our viewers thought about this, is this still applicable considering the train law is now applicable? Thank you for that question Atty. Erwin. And that's exactly the third thing I want to talk about.

Is this still applicable now?

So the third thing I want to talk about is, is this still applicable now? Well, the answer is no. People have been doing this for years. Obviously, the BIR knows that people do this in sale versus donation. They're not stupid. The government knows this. No, they're not idiots. So they knew that this was being practiced. So they made important changes to our tax laws very recently through the train law.

Now with the new law, with the train law, this practice is no longer as prevalent. Why? Because now the rates are, remember CDT, what was the rate for CDT? six percent CGT then it's based on the fair market value or gross selling price. And then the donor's tax, you have your two to fifteen percent, or sometimes thirty percent. What is it now? Now they're both six percent.

Okay, so it's a pretty big leap. So I think that was a smart thing for the government, it is now equalized. Because it was just driving people to not tell the truth. And I would like to note, it's a very fair percentage. If you noticed, it's on the lower level. Not all of it was standardized at the top. We're at the bottom. Yeah. Thank you, legislators for that. Yeah. So, in fact, the donor's tax, before, you had to make a distinction.

Is it part of the family? Or stranger? Right? Now under new law, there's no such distinction that needs to be made. So that's pretty cool. Atty Ramon, you can now give me a piece of land. It's now possible at six percent. So now when you make a comparative computation, the values of the CGT and donor's tax, should generally not be too different. Okay, so of course, each tax is computed differently, so there may be differences, but generally they're not that different.

Okay, Atty. Ramon, I now understand that they're both the same now if you're gonna look at it from a tax perspective. So going back to our original question, Atty. Ramon, what's better, sale or donation? Okay, I said a lot already. We're gonna go back to the question. Okay. Which is better? I would say that the better option between a sale or donation is the contract that you really intended.

So if you intended to sale, you should execute a document that best reflects the intent of the parties for you guys. Okay. So if the party has intended a sale, then execute a deed of sale. If the party is intended a donation, then execute a deed of donation.

Don't simulate a contract, guys, that's just lying. Don't lie, please. Don't try to trick the others or the government just to save on some pesos. That's bad. We can do better than that. If you execute a deed of sale when you really secretly intended a donation, then that would be called a simulated sale.

And there are legal implications to that. Actually, a simulated sale may be invalidated, or it can be argued to be invalidated because there's really no consideration. For example, hey let's just execute this, let's execute this document as if it's a sale so that we can save on tax, but actually, it's a donation. So in truth, there's really one of the elements of a sale is a consideration.

Now, if there's no consideration, then it could be invalidated. In fact, during the time of BIR Commissioner Jacinto-Henares, it was really something that she wanted to crack down on. So she made it a point to really investigate the capacity to pay off so-called buyers. Okay, so if ever they find that there's no capacity, they assess additional taxes that need to be paid.

That's very useful Atty. Ramon, do you have any other tips for our viewers and listeners? Yes. Okay. So I hope I answered your question. So, sale or donation, the answer is, what's the truth? Go with that. You can never go wrong. It has the same tax rate. Okay. As a bonus tip.

Even this whole concept of transferring land to your kids to avoid paying so much estate taxes, later on, may no longer be such a good idea. Why? Because before, similar to the donor's tax, the estate tax rates would again be based on a graduated scale and the maximum, which would be around twenty percent. Okay. So it's a pretty big chunk that goes to taxes.

So and again, that was before. That's why a lot of people avoided it by "I'm gonna transfer it to my child so that there's no problem" but now under the train law, that is also six percent as well. So it's all the same level now: donation, sale, and estate are six percent. Same rate. Thank you. Thank you, legislators. Okay. And also another reason why I'd say probably doing that kind of tax planning is no longer as good as an idea as it was before is because we will be letting go of deductions.

Because the deductions have changed. Yes. It is much more beneficial now for the heirs. Yeah. So as opposed to CGT also and donor's tax where there's no deduction, the estate tax has deductions. Okay, so it might not be anymore that good of an idea. Again, you want to consult your lawyer on that. Or if you want a very quick intro on estate laws, you might want to consider to learn more. So that's it Atty. Ramon, thank you so much for all of those points.


And to recap guys, we've gone through a lot. First off, we talked about what is a sale and what is a donation. In its simplest terms, the two B's: "buy and bestow", choose which applies. Now, number two is we talked about why was there such a big fuss between sale or donation? Why was it like choose your own adventure for some people? And we went through the history that the tax rate was different before. So to take advantage, people chose the mode which was more beneficial to them.

Third, we talked about does it still apply today? Apparently not with the introduction of the train law, the tax rates are all equal. And as a result, if the tax is the same, have the contract reflect what is your original intent. Yes. And finally, we had a bonus tip. Pre-transferring your properties may no longer be such a good idea. Why? The allowable deductions changed under the estate law, it may be cheaper to pay estate tax instead of transferring it while you are alive.

Additional Resources

Now, if you want to learn more about how to transfer land in the Philippines, please go to to learn more. And if you want to use to tackle your question in our show, go to and click the submit topic button. Next, we would like to know what's your biggest takeaway from today's video. Write it down in the comments and let's talk about it. And if you feel we've earned a good rating, please give us a like and a subscribe. It gives us feedback that we're doing a good job and encourages us to make more videos. One last thing guys, trying to trick the government by concealing or simulating contracts just to save on a few thousand, hundreds, or even millions is very often a short-sighted strategy that can definitely bite you in the ass later on.

Many times cheating the government of its taxes by simulating contracts, or whatnot stems from merely a lack of understanding or lack of preparation and lack of planning. We can always educate ourselves, research, discuss, or even consult someone. Now, let's give our country what it's due by paying the right taxes, let's influence our leaders in government by being honest in all our dealings and transactions.

So wasn't that simple? Now go make better choices.

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