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G.R. No.

120880

June 5, 1997

FERDINAND R. MARCOS II, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, THE COMMISSIONER OF THE BUREAU OF INTERNAL REVENUE and HERMINIA D. DE GUZMAN, respondents. TORRES, JR., J.: In this Petition for Review on Certiorari, Government action is once again assailed as precipitate and unfair, suffering the basic and oftly implored requisites of due process of law. Specifically, the petition assails the Decision 1 of the Court of Appeals dated November 29, 1994 in CA-G.R. SP No. 31363, where the said court held: In view of all the foregoing, we rule that the deficiency income tax assessments and estate tax assessment, are already final and (u)nappealable-and-the subsequent levy of real properties is a tax remedy resorted to by the government, sanctioned by Section 213 and 218 of the National Internal Revenue Code. This summary tax remedy is distinct and separate from the other tax remedies (such as Judicial Civil actions and Criminal actions), and is not affected or precluded by the pendency of any other tax remedies instituted by the government. WHEREFORE, premises considered, judgment is hereby rendered DISMISSING the petition for certiorari with prayer for Restraining Order and Injunction. No pronouncements as to costs. SO ORDERED. More than seven years since the demise of the late Ferdinand E. Marcos, the former President of the Republic of the Philippines, the matter of the settlement of his estate, and its dues to the government in estate taxes, are still unresolved, the latter issue being now before this Court for resolution. Specifically, petitioner Ferdinand R. Marcos II, the eldest son of the decedent, questions the actuations of the respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue in assessing, and collecting through the summary remedy of Levy on Real Properties, estate and income tax delinquencies

upon the estate and properties of his father, despite the pendency of the proceedings on probate of the will of the late president, which is docketed as Sp. Proc. No. 10279 in the Regional Trial Court of Pasig, Branch 156. Petitioner had filed with the respondent Court of Appeals a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with an application for writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order on June 28, 1993, seeking to I. Annul and set aside the Notices of Levy on real property dated February 22, 1993 and May 20, 1993, issued by respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue; II. Annul and set aside the Notices of Sale dated May 26, 1993; III. Enjoin the Head Revenue Executive Assistant Director II (Collection Service), from proceeding with the Auction of the real properties covered by Notices of Sale. After the parties had pleaded their case, the Court of Appeals rendered its Decision 2 on November 29, 1994, ruling that the deficiency assessments for estate and income tax made upon the petitioner and the estate of the deceased President Marcos have already become final and unappealable, and may thus be enforced by the summary remedy of levying upon the properties of the late President, as was done by the respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue. WHEREFORE, premises considered judgment is hereby rendered DISMISSING the petition for Certiorari with prayer for Restraining Order and Injunction. No pronouncements as to cost. SO ORDERED. Unperturbed, petitioner is now before us assailing the validity of the appellate court's decision, assigning the following as errors: A. RESPONDENT COURT MANIFESTLY ERRED IN RULING THAT THE SUMMARY TAX REMEDIES RESORTED TO BY THE GOVERNMENT ARE NOT AFFECTED AND PRECLUDED BY THE

PENDENCY OF THE SPECIAL PROCEEDING FOR THE ALLOWANCE OF THE LATE PRESIDENT'S ALLEGED WILL. TO THE CONTRARY, THIS PROBATE PROCEEDING PRECISELY PLACED ALL PROPERTIES WHICH FORM PART OF THE LATE PRESIDENT'S ESTATE IN CUSTODIA LEGIS OF THE PROBATE COURT TO THE EXCLUSION OF ALL OTHER COURTS AND ADMINISTRATIVE AGENCIES. B. RESPONDENT COURT ARBITRARILY ERRED IN SWEEPINGLY DECIDING THAT SINCE THE TAX ASSESSMENTS OF PETITIONER AND HIS PARENTS HAD ALREADY BECOME FINAL AND UNAPPEALABLE, THERE WAS NO NEED TO GO INTO THE MERITS OF THE GROUNDS CITED IN THE PETITION. INDEPENDENT OF WHETHER THE TAX ASSESSMENTS HAD ALREADY BECOME FINAL, HOWEVER, PETITIONER HAS THE RIGHT TO QUESTION THE UNLAWFUL MANNER AND METHOD IN WHICH TAX COLLECTION IS SOUGHT TO BE ENFORCED BY RESPONDENTS COMMISSIONER AND DE GUZMAN. THUS, RESPONDENT COURT SHOULD HAVE FAVORABLY CONSIDERED THE MERITS OF THE FOLLOWING GROUNDS IN THE PETITION: (1) The Notices of Levy on Real Property were issued beyond the period provided in the Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 3868. (2) [a] The numerous pending court cases questioning the late President's ownership or interests in several properties (both personal and real) make the total value of his estate, and the consequent estate tax due, incapable of exact pecuniary determination at this time. Thus, respondents' assessment of the estate tax and their issuance of the Notices of Levy and Sale are premature, confiscatory and oppressive. [b] Petitioner, as one of the late President's compulsory heirs, was never notified, much less served with copies of the Notices of Levy, contrary to the mandate of Section 213 of the NIRC. As such, petitioner was never given an opportunity to contest the Notices in violation of his right to due process of law. C. ON ACCOUNT OF THE CLEAR MERIT OF THE PETITION, RESPONDENT COURT MANIFESTLY ERRED IN RULING THAT IT HAD NO POWER TO GRANT INJUNCTIVE RELIEF TO PETITIONER. SECTION 219 OF THE NIRC NOTWITHSTANDING, COURTS POSSESS THE POWER TO ISSUE A WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION TO RESTRAIN RESPONDENTS COMMISSIONER'S AND

DE GUZMAN'S ARBITRARY METHOD OF COLLECTING THE ALLEGED DEFICIENCY ESTATE AND INCOME TAXES BY MEANS OF LEVY. The facts as found by the appellate court are undisputed, and are hereby adopted: On September 29, 1989, former President Ferdinand Marcos died in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. On June 27, 1990, a Special Tax Audit Team was created to conduct investigations and examinations of the tax liabilities and obligations of the late president, as well as that of his family, associates and "cronies". Said audit team concluded its investigation with a Memorandum dated July 26, 1991. The investigation disclosed that the Marcoses failed to file a written notice of the death of the decedent, an estate tax returns [sic], as well as several income tax returns covering the years 1982 to 1986, all in violation of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC). Subsequently, criminal charges were filed against Mrs. Imelda R. Marcos before the Regional Trial of Quezon City for violations of Sections 82, 83 and 84 (has penalized under Sections 253 and 254 in relation to Section 252 a & b) of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC). The Commissioner of Internal Revenue thereby caused the preparation and filing of the Estate Tax Return for the estate of the late president, the Income Tax Returns of the Spouses Marcos for the years 1985 to 1986, and the Income Tax Returns of petitioner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos II for the years 1982 to 1985. On July 26, 1991, the BIR issued the following: (1) Deficiency estate tax assessment no. FAC-2-89-91-002464 (against the estate of the late president Ferdinand Marcos in the amount of P23,293,607,638.00 Pesos); (2) Deficiency income tax assessment no. FAC-1-85-91-002452 and Deficiency income tax assessment no. FAC-1-86-91-002451 (against the Spouses Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos in the amounts of P149,551.70 and P184,009,737.40 representing deficiency income tax for the years 1985 and 1986); (3) Deficiency income tax assessment nos. FAC1-82-91-002460 to FAC-1-85-91-002463 (against petitioner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos II in the amounts of P258.70 pesos; P9,386.40 Pesos; P4,388.30 Pesos; and P6,376.60 Pesos

representing his deficiency income taxes for the years 1982 to 1985). The Commissioner of Internal Revenue avers that copies of the deficiency estate and income tax assessments were all personally and constructively served on August 26, 1991 and September 12, 1991 upon Mrs. Imelda Marcos (through her caretaker Mr. Martinez) at her last known address at No. 204 Ortega St., San Juan, M.M. (Annexes "D" and "E" of the Petition). Likewise, copies of the deficiency tax assessments issued against petitioner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos II were also personally and constructively served upon him (through his caretaker) on September 12, 1991, at his last known address at Don Mariano Marcos St. corner P. Guevarra St., San Juan, M.M. (Annexes "J" and "J-1" of the Petition). Thereafter, Formal Assessment notices were served on October 20, 1992, upon Mrs. Marcos c/o petitioner, at his office, House of Representatives, Batasan Pambansa, Quezon City. Moreover, a notice to Taxpayer inviting Mrs. Marcos (or her duly authorized representative or counsel), to a conference, was furnished the counsel of Mrs. Marcos, Dean Antonio Coronel but to no avail. The deficiency tax assessments were not protested administratively, by Mrs. Marcos and the other heirs of the late president, within 30 days from service of said assessments. On February 22, 1993, the BIR Commissioner issued twenty-two notices of levy on real property against certain parcels of land owned by the Marcoses to satisfy the alleged estate tax and deficiency income taxes of Spouses Marcos. On May 20, 1993, four more Notices of Levy on real property were issued for the purpose of satisfying the deficiency income taxes. On May 26, 1993, additional four (4) notices of Levy on real property were again issued. The foregoing tax remedies were resorted to pursuant to Sections 205 and 213 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC). In response to a letter dated March 12, 1993 sent by Atty. Loreto Ata (counsel of herein petitioner) calling the attention of the BIR and requesting that they be duly notified of any action taken by the BIR affecting the interest of their client Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos II, as well as the interest of the late president copies of

the aforesaid notices were, served on April 7, 1993 and on June 10, 1993, upon Mrs. Imelda Marcos, the petitioner, and their counsel of record, "De Borja, Medialdea, Ata, Bello, Guevarra and Serapio Law Office". Notices of sale at public auction were posted on May 26, 1993, at the lobby of the City Hall of Tacloban City. The public auction for the sale of the eleven (11) parcels of land took place on July 5, 1993. There being no bidder, the lots were declared forfeited in favor of the government. On June 25, 1993, petitioner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos II filed the instant petition for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, with prayer for temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction. It has been repeatedly observed, and not without merit, that the enforcement of tax laws and the collection of taxes, is of paramount importance for the sustenance of government. Taxes are the lifeblood of the government and should be collected without unnecessary hindrance. However, such collection should be made in accordance with law as any arbitrariness will negate the very reason for government itself. It is therefore necessary to reconcile the apparently conflicting interests of the authorities and the taxpayers so that the real purpose of taxation, which is the promotion of the common good, may be achieved. 3 Whether or not the proper avenues of assessment and collection of the said tax obligations were taken by the respondent Bureau is now the subject of the Court's inquiry. Petitioner posits that notices of levy, notices of sale, and subsequent sale of properties of the late President Marcos effected by the BIR are null and void for disregarding the established procedure for the enforcement of taxes due upon the estate of the deceased. The case of Domingo vs. Garlitos 4 is specifically cited to bolster the argument that "the ordinary procedure by which to settle claims of indebtedness against the estate of a deceased, person, as in an inheritance (estate) tax, is for the claimant to present a claim before the probate court so that said court may order the administrator to pay the amount therefor." This remedy is allegedly, exclusive, and cannot be effected through any other means.

Petitioner goes further, submitting that the probate court is not precluded from denying a request by the government for the immediate payment of taxes, and should order the payment of the same only within the period fixed by the probate court for the payment of all the debts of the decedent. In this regard, petitioner cites the case of Collector of Internal Revenue vs. The Administratrix of the Estate of Echarri (67 Phil 502), where it was held that: The case of Pineda vs. Court of First Instance of Tayabas and Collector of Internal Revenue (52 Phil 803), relied upon by the petitioner-appellant is good authority on the proposition that the court having control over the administration proceedings has jurisdiction to entertain the claim presented by the government for taxes due and to order the administrator to pay the tax should it find that the assessment was proper, and that the tax was legal, due and collectible. And the rule laid down in that case must be understood in relation to the case of Collector of Customs vs. Haygood, supra., as to the procedure to be followed in a given case by the government to effectuate the collection of the tax. Categorically stated, where during the pendency of judicial administration over the estate of a deceased person a claim for taxes is presented by the government, the court has the authority to order payment by the administrator; but, in the same way that it has authority to order payment or satisfaction, it also has the negative authority to deny the same. While there are cases where courts are required to perform certain duties mandatory and ministerial in character, the function of the court in a case of the present character is not one of them; and here, the court cannot be an organism endowed with latitude of judgment in one direction, and converted into a mere mechanical contrivance in another direction. On the other hand, it is argued by the BIR, that the state's authority to collect internal revenue taxes is paramount. Thus, the pendency of probate proceedings over the estate of the deceased does not preclude the assessment and collection, through summary remedies, of estate taxes over the same. According to the respondent, claims for payment of estate and income taxes due and assessed after the death of the decedent need not be presented in the form of a claim against the estate. These can and should be paid immediately. The probate court is not the government agency to decide whether an estate is liable for

payment of estate of income taxes. Well-settled is the rule that the probate court is a court with special and limited jurisdiction. Concededly, the authority of the Regional Trial Court, sitting, albeit with limited jurisdiction, as a probate court over estate of deceased individual, is not a trifling thing. The court's jurisdiction, once invoked, and made effective, cannot be treated with indifference nor should it be ignored with impunity by the very parties invoking its authority. In testament to this, it has been held that it is within the jurisdiction of the probate court to approve the sale of properties of a deceased person by his prospective heirs before final adjudication; 5 to determine who are the heirs of the decedent; 6 the recognition of a natural child; 7 the status of a woman claiming to be the legal wife of the decedent; 8 the legality of disinheritance of an heir by the testator; 9 and to pass upon the validity of a waiver of hereditary rights. 10 The pivotal question the court is tasked to resolve refers to the authority of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to collect by the summary remedy of levying upon, and sale of real properties of the decedent, estate tax deficiencies, without the cognition and authority of the court sitting in probate over the supposed will of the deceased. The nature of the process of estate tax collection has been described as follows: Strictly speaking, the assessment of an inheritance tax does not directly involve the administration of a decedent's estate, although it may be viewed as an incident to the complete settlement of an estate, and, under some statutes, it is made the duty of the probate court to make the amount of the inheritance tax a part of the final decree of distribution of the estate. It is not against the property of decedent, nor is it a claim against the estate as such, but it is against the interest or property right which the heir, legatee, devisee, etc., has in the property formerly held by decedent. Further, under some statutes, it has been held that it is not a suit or controversy between the parties, nor is it an adversary proceeding between the state and the person who owes the tax on the inheritance. However, under other statutes it has been held that the hearing and determination of the cash value of the assets and the determination of the tax are adversary

proceedings. The proceeding has been held to be necessarily a proceeding in rem. 11 In the Philippine experience, the enforcement and collection of estate tax, is executive in character, as the legislature has seen it fit to ascribe this task to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Section 3 of the National Internal Revenue Code attests to this: Sec. 3.Powers and duties of the Bureau. The powers and duties of the Bureau of Internal Revenue shall comprehend the assessment and collection of all national internal revenue taxes, fees, and charges, and the enforcement of all forfeitures, penalties, and fines connected therewith, including the execution of judgments in all cases decided in its favor by the Court of Tax Appeals and the ordinary courts. Said Bureau shall also give effect to and administer the supervisory and police power conferred to it by this Code or other laws. Thus, it was in Vera vs. Fernandez 12 that the court recognized the liberal treatment of claims for taxes charged against the estate of the decedent. Such taxes, we said, were exempted from the application of the statute of non-claims, and this is justified by the necessity of government funding, immortalized in the maxim that taxes are the lifeblood of the government. Vectigalia nervi sunt rei publicae taxes are the sinews of the state. Taxes assessed against the estate of a deceased person, after administration is opened, need not be submitted to the committee on claims in the ordinary course of administration. In the exercise of its control over the administrator, the court may direct the payment of such taxes upon motion showing that the taxes have been assessed against the estate. Such liberal treatment of internal revenue taxes in the probate proceedings extends so far, even to allowing the enforcement of tax obligations against the heirs of the decedent, even after distribution of the estate's properties. Claims for taxes, whether assessed before or after the death of the deceased, can be collected from the heirs even after the distribution of the properties of the decedent. They are exempted from the application of the statute of non-claims. The heirs shall be liable therefor, in proportion to their share in the inheritance. 13

Thus, the Government has two ways of collecting the taxes in question. One, by going after all the heirs and collecting from each one of them the amount of the tax proportionate to the inheritance received. Another remedy, pursuant to the lien created by Section 315 of the Tax Code upon all property and rights to property belong to the taxpayer for unpaid income tax, is by subjecting said property of the estate which is in the hands of an heir or transferee to the payment of the tax due the estate. (Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs. Pineda, 21 SCRA 105, September 15, 1967.) From the foregoing, it is discernible that the approval of the court, sitting in probate, or as a settlement tribunal over the deceased is not a mandatory requirement in the collection of estate taxes. It cannot therefore be argued that the Tax Bureau erred in proceeding with the levying and sale of the properties allegedly owned by the late President, on the ground that it was required to seek first the probate court's sanction. There is nothing in the Tax Code, and in the pertinent remedial laws that implies the necessity of the probate or estate settlement court's approval of the state's claim for estate taxes, before the same can be enforced and collected. On the contrary, under Section 87 of the NIRC, it is the probate or settlement court which is bidden not to authorize the executor or judicial administrator of the decedent's estate to deliver any distributive share to any party interested in the estate, unless it is shown a Certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that the estate taxes have been paid. This provision disproves the petitioner's contention that it is the probate court which approves the assessment and collection of the estate tax. If there is any issue as to the validity of the BIR's decision to assess the estate taxes, this should have been pursued through the proper administrative and judicial avenues provided for by law. Section 229 of the NIRC tells us how: Sec. 229. Protesting of assessment. When the Commissioner of Internal Revenue or his duly authorized representative finds that proper taxes should be assessed, he shall first notify the taxpayer of his findings. Within a period to be prescribed by implementing regulations, the taxpayer shall be required to respond to said notice. If the taxpayer fails to respond, the Commissioner shall issue an assessment based on his findings.

Such assessment may be protested administratively by filing a request for reconsideration or reinvestigation in such form and manner as may be prescribed by implementing regulations within (30) days from receipt of the assessment; otherwise, the assessment shall become final and unappealable. If the protest is denied in whole or in part, the individual, association or corporation adversely affected by the decision on the protest may appeal to the Court of Tax Appeals within thirty (30) days from receipt of said decision; otherwise, the decision shall become final, executory and demandable. (As inserted by P.D. 1773) Apart from failing to file the required estate tax return within the time required for the filing of the same, petitioner, and the other heirs never questioned the assessments served upon them, allowing the same to lapse into finality, and prompting the BIR to collect the said taxes by levying upon the properties left by President Marcos. Petitioner submits, however, that "while the assessment of taxes may have been validly undertaken by the Government, collection thereof may have been done in violation of the law. Thus, the manner and method in which the latter is enforced may be questioned separately, and irrespective of the finality of the former, because the Government does not have the unbridled discretion to enforce collection without regard to the clear provision of law." 14 Petitioner specifically points out that applying Memorandum Circular No. 38-68, implementing Sections 318 and 324 of the old tax code (Republic Act 5203), the BIR's Notices of Levy on the Marcos properties, were issued beyond the allowed period, and are therefore null and void: . . . the Notices of Levy on Real Property (Annexes O to NN of Annex C of this Petition) in satisfaction of said assessments were still issued by respondents well beyond the period mandated in Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 38-68. These Notices of Levy were issued only on 22 February 1993 and 20 May 1993 when at least seventeen (17) months had already lapsed from the last service of tax assessment on 12 September 1991. As no notices of distraint of personal property were first issued by respondents, the

latter should have complied with Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 38-68 and issued these Notices of Levy not earlier than three (3) months nor later than six (6) months from 12 September 1991. In accordance with the Circular, respondents only had until 12 March 1992 (the last day of the sixth month) within which to issue these Notices of Levy. The Notices of Levy, having been issued beyond the period allowed by law, are thus void and of no effect. 15 We hold otherwise. The Notices of Levy upon real property were issued within the prescriptive period and in accordance with the provisions of the present Tax Code. The deficiency tax assessment, having already become final, executory, and demandable, the same can now be collected through the summary remedy of distraint or levy pursuant to Section 205 of the NIRC. The applicable provision in regard to the prescriptive period for the assessment and collection of tax deficiency in this instance is Article 223 of the NIRC, which pertinently provides: Sec. 223. Exceptions as to a period of limitation of assessment and collection of taxes. (a) In the case of a false or fraudulent return with intent to evade tax or of a failure to file a return, the tax may be assessed, or a proceeding in court for the collection of such tax may be begun without assessment, at any time within ten (10) years after the discovery of the falsity, fraud, or omission: Provided, That, in a fraud assessment which has become final and executory, the fact of fraud shall be judicially taken cognizance of in the civil or criminal action for the collection thereof. xxx xxx xxx

(c) Any internal revenue tax which has been assessed within the period of limitation above prescribed, may be collected by distraint or levy or by a proceeding in court within three years following the assessment of the tax. xxx xxx xxx

The omission to file an estate tax return, and the subsequent failure to contest or appeal the assessment made by the BIR is fatal to the petitioner's cause, as under the above-cited provision, in case of failure to file a return, the tax may be assessed at any time within ten years after the omission, and any tax so assessed

may be collected by levy upon real property within three years following the assessment of the tax. Since the estate tax assessment had become final and unappealable by the petitioner's default as regards protesting the validity of the said assessment, there is now no reason why the BIR cannot continue with the collection of the said tax. Any objection against the assessment should have been pursued following the avenue paved in Section 229 of the NIRC on protests on assessments of internal revenue taxes. Petitioner further argues that "the numerous pending court cases questioning the late president's ownership or interests in several properties (both real and personal) make the total value of his estate, and the consequent estate tax due, incapable of exact pecuniary determination at this time. Thus, respondents' assessment of the estate tax and their issuance of the Notices of Levy and sale are premature and oppressive." He points out the pendency of Sandiganbayan Civil Case Nos. 0001-0034 and 0141, which were filed by the government to question the ownership and interests of the late President in real and personal properties located within and outside the Philippines. Petitioner, however, omits to allege whether the properties levied upon by the BIR in the collection of estate taxes upon the decedent's estate were among those involved in the said cases pending in the Sandiganbayan. Indeed, the court is at a loss as to how these cases are relevant to the matter at issue. The mere fact that the decedent has pending cases involving ill-gotten wealth does not affect the enforcement of tax assessments over the properties indubitably included in his estate. Petitioner also expresses his reservation as to the propriety of the BIR's total assessment of P23,292,607,638.00, stating that this amount deviates from the findings of the Department of Justice's Panel of Prosecutors as per its resolution of 20 September 1991. Allegedly, this is clear evidence of the uncertainty on the part of the Government as to the total value of the estate of the late President. This is, to our mind, the petitioner's last ditch effort to assail the assessment of estate tax which had already become final and unappealable. It is not the Department of Justice which is the government agency tasked to determine the amount of taxes due upon the subject

estate, but the Bureau of Internal Revenue, 16 whose determinations and assessments are presumed correct and made in good faith. 17 The taxpayer has the duty of proving otherwise. In the absence of proof of any irregularities in the performance of official duties, an assessment will not be disturbed. Even an assessment based on estimates is prima facie valid and lawful where it does not appear to have been arrived at arbitrarily or capriciously. The burden of proof is upon the complaining party to show clearly that the assessment is erroneous. Failure to present proof of error in the assessment will justify the judicial affirmance of said assessment. 18 In this instance, petitioner has not pointed out one single provision in the Memorandum of the Special Audit Team which gave rise to the questioned assessment, which bears a trace of falsity. Indeed, the petitioner's attack on the assessment bears mainly on the alleged improbable and unconscionable amount of the taxes charged. But mere rhetoric cannot supply the basis for the charge of impropriety of the assessments made. Moreover, these objections to the assessments should have been raised, considering the ample remedies afforded the taxpayer by the Tax Code, with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Court of Tax Appeals, as described earlier, and cannot be raised now via Petition for Certiorari, under the pretext of grave abuse of discretion. The course of action taken by the petitioner reflects his disregard or even repugnance of the established institutions for governance in the scheme of a well-ordered society. The subject tax assessments having become final, executory and enforceable, the same can no longer be contested by means of a disguised protest. In the main, Certiorari may not be used as a substitute for a lost appeal or remedy. 19 This judicial policy becomes more pronounced in view of the absence of sufficient attack against the actuations of government. On the matter of sufficiency of service of Notices of Assessment to the petitioner, we find the respondent appellate court's pronouncements sound and resilient to petitioner's attacks. Anent grounds 3(b) and (B) both alleging/claiming lack of notice We find, after considering the facts and circumstances, as well as evidences, that there was sufficient, constructive and/or actual notice of assessments, levy and sale, sent to herein petitioner Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos as well as to his mother Mrs. Imelda Marcos.

Even if we are to rule out the notices of assessments personally given to the caretaker of Mrs. Marcos at the latter's last known address, on August 26, 1991 and September 12, 1991, as well as the notices of assessment personally given to the caretaker of petitioner also at his last known address on September 12, 1991 the subsequent notices given thereafter could no longer be ignored as they were sent at a time when petitioner was already here in the Philippines, and at a place where said notices would surely be called to petitioner's attention, and received by responsible persons of sufficient age and discretion. Thus, on October 20, 1992, formal assessment notices were served upon Mrs. Marcos c/o the petitioner, at his office, House of Representatives, Batasan Pambansa, Q.C. (Annexes "A", "A-1", "A2", "A-3"; pp. 207-210, Comment/Memorandum of OSG). Moreover, a notice to taxpayer dated October 8, 1992 inviting Mrs. Marcos to a conference relative to her tax liabilities, was furnished the counsel of Mrs. Marcos Dean Antonio Coronel (Annex "B", p. 211, ibid). Thereafter, copies of Notices were also served upon Mrs. Imelda Marcos, the petitioner and their counsel "De Borja, Medialdea, Ata, Bello, Guevarra and Serapio Law Office", on April 7, 1993 and June 10, 1993. Despite all of these Notices, petitioner never lifted a finger to protest the assessments, (upon which the Levy and sale of properties were based), nor appealed the same to the Court of Tax Appeals. There being sufficient service of Notices to herein petitioner (and his mother) and it appearing that petitioner continuously ignored said Notices despite several opportunities given him to file a protest and to thereafter appeal to the Court of Tax Appeals, the tax assessments subject of this case, upon which the levy and sale of properties were based, could no longer be contested (directly or indirectly) via this instant petition for certiorari. 20 Petitioner argues that all the questioned Notices of Levy, however, must be nullified for having been issued without validly serving copies thereof to the petitioner. As a mandatory heir of the decedent, petitioner avers that he has an interest in the subject estate, and notices of levy upon its properties should have been served upon him. We do not agree. In the case of notices of levy issued to satisfy the delinquent estate tax, the delinquent taxpayer is the Estate of the decedent, and not necessarily, and exclusively, the petitioner as

heir of the deceased. In the same vein, in the matter of income tax delinquency of the late president and his spouse, petitioner is not the taxpayer liable. Thus, it follows that service of notices of levy in satisfaction of these tax delinquencies upon the petitioner is not required by law, as under Section 213 of the NIRC, which pertinently states: xxx xxx xxx

. . . Levy shall be effected by writing upon said certificate a description of the property upon which levy is made. At the same time, written notice of the levy shall be mailed to or served upon the Register of Deeds of the province or city where the property is located and upon the delinquent taxpayer, or if he be absent from the Philippines, to his agent or the manager of the business in respect to which the liability arose, or if there be none, to the occupant of the property in question. xxx xxx xxx

The foregoing notwithstanding, the record shows that notices of warrants of distraint and levy of sale were furnished the counsel of petitioner on April 7, 1993, and June 10, 1993, and the petitioner himself on April 12, 1993 at his office at the Batasang Pambansa. 21 We cannot therefore, countenance petitioner's insistence that he was denied due process. Where there was an opportunity to raise objections to government action, and such opportunity was disregarded, for no justifiable reason, the party claiming oppression then becomes the oppressor of the orderly functions of government. He who comes to court must come with clean hands. Otherwise, he not only taints his name, but ridicules the very structure of established authority. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Court RESOLVED to DENY the present petition. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated November 29, 1994 is hereby AFFIRMED in all respects. SO ORDERED. Regalado, Romero, Puno and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

EN BANC G.R. Nos. L-49839-46

April 26, 1991

JOSE B. L. REYES and EDMUNDO A. REYES, petitioners, vs. PEDRO ALMANZOR, VICENTE ABAD SANTOS, JOSE ROO, in their capacities as appointed and Acting Members of the CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS; TERESITA H. NOBLEJAS, ROMULO M. DEL ROSARIO, RAUL C. FLORES, in their capacities as appointed and Acting Members of the BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS of Manila; and NICOLAS CATIIL in his capacity as City Assessor of Manila, respondents. Barcelona, Perlas, Joven & Academia Law Offices for petitioners. PARAS, J.:p This is a petition for review on certiorari to reverse the June 10, 1977 decision of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals 1 in CBAA Cases Nos. 72-79 entitled "J.B.L. Reyes, Edmundo Reyes, et al. v. Board of Assessment Appeals of Manila and City Assessor of Manila" which affirmed the March 29, 1976 decision of the Board of Tax Assessment Appeals 2 in BTAA Cases Nos. 614, 614-A-J, 615, 615-A, B, E, "Jose Reyes, et al. v. City Assessor of Manila" and "Edmundo Reyes and Milagros Reyes v. City Assessor of Manila" upholding the classification and assessments made by the City Assessor of Manila. The facts of the case are as follows: Petitioners J.B.L. Reyes, Edmundo and Milagros Reyes are owners of parcels of land situated in Tondo and Sta. Cruz Districts, City of Manila, which are leased and entirely occupied as dwelling sites by tenants. Said tenants were paying monthly rentals not exceeding three hundred pesos (P300.00) in July, 1971. On July 14, 1971, the National Legislature enacted Republic Act No. 6359 prohibiting for one year from its effectivity, an increase in monthly rentals of dwelling units or of lands on which another's dwelling is located, where such rentals do not exceed three hundred pesos (P300.00) a month but allowing an increase in rent by not more than 10% thereafter. The said Act also suspended paragraph (1) of Article 1673 of the Civil Code for two years from its effectivity thereby

disallowing the ejectment of lessees upon the expiration of the usual legal period of lease. On October 12, 1972, Presidential Decree No. 20 amended R.A. No. 6359 by making absolute the prohibition to increase monthly rentals below P300.00 and by indefinitely suspending the aforementioned provision of the Civil Code, excepting leases with a definite period. Consequently, the Reyeses, petitioners herein, were precluded from raising the rentals and from ejecting the tenants. In 1973, respondent City Assessor of Manila re-classified and reassessed the value of the subject properties based on the schedule of market values duly reviewed by the Secretary of Finance. The revision, as expected, entailed an increase in the corresponding tax rates prompting petitioners to file a Memorandum of Disagreement with the Board of Tax Assessment Appeals. They averred that the reassessments made were "excessive, unwarranted, inequitable, confiscatory and unconstitutional" considering that the taxes imposed upon them greatly exceeded the annual income derived from their properties. They argued that the income approach should have been used in determining the land values instead of the comparable sales approach which the City Assessor adopted (Rollo, pp. 9-10-A). The Board of Tax Assessment Appeals, however, considered the assessments valid, holding thus: WHEREFORE, and considering that the appellants have failed to submit concrete evidence which could overcome the presumptive regularity of the classification and assessments appear to be in accordance with the base schedule of market values and of the base schedule of building unit values, as approved by the Secretary of Finance, the cases should be, as they are hereby, upheld. SO ORDERED. (Decision of the Board of Tax Assessment Appeals, Rollo, p. 22). The Reyeses appealed to the Central Board of Assessment Appeals. They submitted, among others, the summary of the yearly rentals to show the income derived from the properties. Respondent City Assessor, on the other hand, submitted three (3) deeds of sale showing the different market values of the real property situated in the same vicinity where the subject properties of petitioners are located. To better appreciate the locational and physical features of the land, the Board of Hearing Commissioners conducted an ocular inspection with the presence of two representatives of the City Assessor prior to the healing of the case. Neither the owners nor their authorized representatives were present during the said

ocular inspection despite proper notices served them. It was found that certain parcels of land were below street level and were affected by the tides (Rollo, pp. 24-25). On June 10, 1977, the Central Board of Assessment Appeals rendered its decision, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, the appealed decision insofar as the valuation and assessment of the lots covered by Tax Declaration Nos. (5835) PD5847, (5839), (5831) PD-5844 and PD-3824 is affirmed. For the lots covered by Tax Declaration Nos. (1430) PD-1432, PD1509, 146 and (1) PD-266, the appealed Decision is modified by allowing a 20% reduction in their respective market values and applying therein the assessment level of 30% to arrive at the corresponding assessed value. SO ORDERED. (Decision of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals, Rollo, p. 27) Petitioner's subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied, hence, this petition. The Reyeses assigned the following error: THE HONORABLE BOARD ERRED IN ADOPTING THE "COMPARABLE SALES APPROACH" METHOD IN FIXING THE ASSESSED VALUE OF APPELLANTS' PROPERTIES. The petition is impressed with merit. The crux of the controversy is in the method used in tax assessment of the properties in question. Petitioners maintain that the "Income Approach" method would have been more realistic for in disregarding the effect of the restrictions imposed by P.D. 20 on the market value of the properties affected, respondent Assessor of the City of Manila unlawfully and unjustifiably set increased new assessed values at levels so high and successive that the resulting annual real estate taxes would admittedly exceed the sum total of the yearly rentals paid or payable by the dweller tenants under P.D. 20. Hence, petitioners protested against the levels of the values assigned to their properties as revised and increased on the ground that they were arbitrarily excessive, unwarranted, inequitable, confiscatory and unconstitutional (Rollo, p. 10-A).

On the other hand, while respondent Board of Tax Assessment Appeals admits in its decision that the income approach is used in determining land values in some vicinities, it maintains that when income is affected by some sort of price control, the same is rejected in the consideration and study of land values as in the case of properties affected by the Rent Control Law for they do not project the true market value in the open market (Rollo, p. 21). Thus, respondents opted instead for the "Comparable Sales Approach" on the ground that the value estimate of the properties predicated upon prices paid in actual, market transactions would be a uniform and a more credible standards to use especially in case of mass appraisal of properties (Ibid.). Otherwise stated, public respondents would have this Court completely ignore the effects of the restrictions of P.D. No. 20 on the market value of properties within its coverage. In any event, it is unquestionable that both the "Comparable Sales Approach" and the "Income Approach" are generally acceptable methods of appraisal for taxation purposes (The Law on Transfer and Business Taxation by Hector S. De Leon, 1988 Edition). However, it is conceded that the propriety of one as against the other would of course depend on several factors. Hence, as early as 1923 in the case of Army & Navy Club, Manila v. Wenceslao Trinidad, G.R. No. 19297 (44 Phil. 383), it has been stressed that the assessors, in finding the value of the property, have to consider all the circumstances and elements of value and must exercise a prudent discretion in reaching conclusions. Under Art. VIII, Sec. 17 (1) of the 1973 Constitution, then enforced, the rule of taxation must not only be uniform, but must also be equitable and progressive. Uniformity has been defined as that principle by which all taxable articles or kinds of property of the same class shall be taxed at the same rate (Churchill v. Concepcion, 34 Phil. 969 [1916]). Notably in the 1935 Constitution, there was no mention of the equitable or progressive aspects of taxation required in the 1973 Charter (Fernando "The Constitution of the Philippines", p. 221, Second Edition). Thus, the need to examine closely and determine the specific mandate of the Constitution. Taxation is said to be equitable when its burden falls on those better able to pay. Taxation is progressive when its rate goes up depending on the resources of the person affected (Ibid.).

The power to tax "is an attribute of sovereignty". In fact, it is the strongest of all the powers of government. But for all its plenitude the power to tax is not unconfined as there are restrictions. Adversely effecting as it does property rights, both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution may properly be invoked to invalidate in appropriate cases a revenue measure. If it were otherwise, there would be truth to the 1903 dictum of Chief Justice Marshall that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy." The web or unreality spun from Marshall's famous dictum was brushed away by one stroke of Mr. Justice Holmes pen, thus: "The power to tax is not the power to destroy while this Court sits. So it is in the Philippines " (Sison, Jr. v. Ancheta, 130 SCRA 655 [1984]; Obillos, Jr. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 139 SCRA 439 [1985]). In the same vein, the due process clause may be invoked where a taxing statute is so arbitrary that it finds no support in the Constitution. An obvious example is where it can be shown to amount to confiscation of property. That would be a clear abuse of power (Sison v. Ancheta, supra). The taxing power has the authority to make a reasonable and natural classification for purposes of taxation but the government's act must not be prompted by a spirit of hostility, or at the very least discrimination that finds no support in reason. It suffices then that the laws operate equally and uniformly on all persons under similar circumstances or that all persons must be treated in the same manner, the conditions not being different both in the privileges conferred and the liabilities imposed (Ibid., p. 662). Finally under the Real Property Tax Code (P.D. 464 as amended), it is declared that the first Fundamental Principle to guide the appraisal and assessment of real property for taxation purposes is that the property must be "appraised at its current and fair market value." By no strength of the imagination can the market value of properties covered by P.D. No. 20 be equated with the market value of properties not so covered. The former has naturally a much lesser market value in view of the rental restrictions. Ironically, in the case at bar, not even the factors determinant of the assessed value of subject properties under the "comparable

sales approach" were presented by the public respondents, namely: (1) that the sale must represent a bonafide arm's length transaction between a willing seller and a willing buyer and (2) the property must be comparable property (Rollo, p. 27). Nothing can justify or support their view as it is of judicial notice that for properties covered by P.D. 20 especially during the time in question, there were hardly any willing buyers. As a general rule, there were no takers so that there can be no reasonable basis for the conclusion that these properties were comparable with other residential properties not burdened by P.D. 20. Neither can the given circumstances be nonchalantly dismissed by public respondents as imposed under distressed conditions clearly implying that the same were merely temporary in character. At this point in time, the falsity of such premises cannot be more convincingly demonstrated by the fact that the law has existed for around twenty (20) years with no end to it in sight. Verily, taxes are the lifeblood of the government and so should be collected without unnecessary hindrance. However, such collection should be made in accordance with law as any arbitrariness will negate the very reason for government itself It is therefore necessary to reconcile the apparently conflicting interests of the authorities and the taxpayers so that the real purpose of taxations, which is the promotion of the common good, may be achieved (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Algue Inc., et al., 158 SCRA 9 [1988]). Consequently, it stands to reason that petitioners who are burdened by the government by its Rental Freezing Laws (then R.A. No. 6359 and P.D. 20) under the principle of social justice should not now be penalized by the same government by the imposition of excessive taxes petitioners can ill afford and eventually result in the forfeiture of their properties. By the public respondents' own computation the assessment by income approach would amount to only P10.00 per sq. meter at the time in question. PREMISES CONSIDERED, (a) the petition is GRANTED; (b) the assailed decisions of public respondents are REVERSED and SET ASIDE; and (e) the respondent Board of Assessment Appeals of Manila and the City Assessor of Manila are ordered to make a new assessment by the income approach method to guarantee a fairer and more realistic basis of computation (Rollo, p. 71). SO ORDERED.

SECOND DIVISION G.R. No. 112024 January 28, 1999 PHILIPPINE BANK OF COMMUNICATIONS, petitioner, vs. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, COURT OF TAX APPEALS and COURT OF APPEALS, respondent. QUISUMBING, J.: This petition for review assails the Resolution 1 of the Court of Appeals dated September 22, 1993 affirming the Decision 2 and a Resolution 3 of the Court Of Tax Appeals which denied the claims of the petitioner for tax refund and tax credits, and disposing as follows: IN VIEW OF ALL, THE FOREGOING, the instant petition for review, is DENIED due course. The Decision of the Court of Tax Appeals dated May 20, 1993 and its resolution dated July 20, 1993, are hereby AFFIRMED in toto. SO ORDERED. 4 The Court of Tax Appeals earlier ruled as follows: WHEREFORE, Petitioner's claim for refund/tax credits of overpaid income tax for 1985 in the amount of P5,299,749.95 is hereby denied for having been filed beyond the reglementary period. The 1986 claim for refund amounting to P234,077.69 is likewise denied since petitioner has opted and in all likelihood automatically credited the same to the succeeding year. The petition for review is dismissed for lack of merit. SO ORDERED. 5 The facts on record show the antecedent circumstances pertinent to this case. Petitioner, Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCom), a commercial banking corporation duly organized under Philippine laws, filed its quarterly income tax returns for the first and second quarters of 1985, reported profits, and paid the total income tax of P5,016,954.00. The taxes due were settled by applying PBCom's tax credit memos and accordingly, the Bureau of Internal Revenue

(BIR) issued Tax Debit Memo Nos. 0746-85 and 0747-85 for P3,401,701.00 and P1,615,253.00, respectively. Subsequently, however, PBCom suffered losses so that when it filed its Annual Income Tax Returns for the year-ended December 31, 1986, the petitioner likewise reported a net loss of P14,129,602.00, and thus declared no tax payable for the year. But during these two years, PBCom earned rental income from leased properties. The lessees withheld and remitted to the BIR withholding creditable taxes of P282,795.50 in 1985 and P234,077.69 in 1986. On August 7, 1987, petitioner requested the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, among others, for a tax credit of P5,016,954.00 representing the overpayment of taxes in the first and second quarters of 1985. Thereafter, on July 25, 1988, petitioner filed a claim for refund of creditable taxes withheld by their lessees from property rentals in 1985 for P282,795.50 and in 1986 for P234,077.69. Pending the investigation of the respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue, petitioner instituted a Petition for Review on November 18, 1988 before the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA). The petition was docketed as CTA Case No. 4309 entitled: "Philippine Bank of Communications vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue." The losses petitioner incurred as per the summary of petitioner's claims for refund and tax credit for 1985 and 1986, filed before the Court of Tax Appeals, are as follows: 1985 1986

Net Income (Loss) Tax Due Quarterly tax. Payments Made 5,016,954.00 NIL (P25,317,288.00) NIL (P14,129,602.00)

Tax Withheld at Source Excess Tax Payments ===============

282,795.50

234,077.69

without proof, that there were taxes due in 1987 and that PBCom availed of tax-crediting that year. 8 Simply stated, the main question is: Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in denying the plea for tax refund or tax credits on the ground of prescription, despite petitioner's reliance on RMC No. 7-85, changing the prescriptive period of two years to ten years? as Petitioner argues that its claims for refund and tax credits are not yet barred by prescription relying on the applicability of Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 7-85 issued on April 1, 1985. The circular states that overpaid income taxes are not covered by the two-year prescriptive period under the tax Code and that taxpayers may claim refund or tax credits for the excess quarterly income tax with the BIR within ten (10) years under Article 1144 of the Civil Code. The pertinent portions of the circular reads: REVENUE MEMORANDUM CIRCULAR NO. 7-85 SUBJECT: PROCESSING OF REFUND OR TAX CREDIT OF EXCESS CORPORATE INCOME TAX RESULTING FROM THE FILING OF THE FINAL ADJUSTMENT RETURN. TO: All Internal Revenue Officers and Others Concerned.

P5,299,749.50* ============= P234,077.69

* CTA's decision reflects PBCom's 1985 tax claim P5,299,749.95. A forty five centavo difference was noted.

On May 20, 1993, the CTA rendered a decision which, as stated on the outset, denied the request of petitioner for a tax refund or credit in the sum amount of P5,299,749.95, on the ground that it was filed beyond the two-year reglementary period provided for by law. The petitioner's claim for refund in 1986 amounting to P234,077.69 was likewise denied on the assumption that it was automatically credited by PBCom against its tax payment in the succeeding year. On June 22, 1993, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the CTA's decision but the same was denied due course for lack of merit. 6 Thereafter, PBCom filed a petition for review of said decision and resolution of the CTA with the Court of Appeals. However on September 22, 1993, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the CTA's resolution dated July 20, 1993. Hence this petition now before us. The issues raised by the petitioner are: I. Whether taxpayer PBCom which relied in good faith on the formal assurances of BIR in RMC No. 7-85 and did not immediately file with the CTA a petition for review asking for the refund/tax credit of its 1985-86 excess quarterly income tax payments can be prejudiced by the subsequent BIR rejection, applied retroactivity, of its assurances in RMC No. 7-85 that the prescriptive period for the refund/tax credit of excess quarterly income tax payments is not two years but ten (10). 7 II. Whether the Court of Appeals seriously erred in affirming the CTA decision which denied PBCom's claim for the refund of P234,077.69 income tax overpaid in 1986 on the mere speculation,

Sec. 85 And 86 Of the National Internal Revenue Code provide: xxx xxx xxx

The foregoing provisions are implemented by Section 7 of Revenue Regulations Nos. 10-77 which provide; xxx xxx xxx

It has been observed, however, that because of the excess tax payments, corporations file claims for recovery of overpaid income tax with the Court of Tax Appeals within the two-year period from the date of payment, in accordance with sections 292 and 295 of the National Internal Revenue Code. It is obvious that the filing of the case in court is to preserve the judicial right of the corporation to claim the refund or tax credit.

It should he noted, however, that this is not a case of erroneously or illegally paid tax under the provisions of Sections 292 and 295 of the Tax Code. In the above provision of the Regulations the corporation may request for the refund of the overpaid income tax or claim for automatic tax credit. To insure prompt action on corporate annual income tax returns showing refundable amounts arising from overpaid quarterly income taxes, this Office has promulgated Revenue Memorandum Order No. 32-76 dated June 11, 1976, containing the procedure in processing said returns. Under these procedures, the returns are merely pre-audited which consist mainly of checking mathematical accuracy of the figures of the return. After which, the refund or tax credit is granted, and, this procedure was adopted to facilitate immediate action on cases like this. In this regard, therefore, there is no need to file petitions for review in the Court of Tax Appeals in order to preserve the right to claim refund or tax credit the two year period. As already stated, actions hereon by the Bureau are immediate after only a cursory pre-audit of the income tax returns. Moreover, a taxpayer may recover from the Bureau of Internal Revenue excess income tax paid under the provisions of Section 86 of the Tax Code within 10 years from the date of payment considering that it is an obligation created by law (Article 1144 of the Civil Code). 9 (Emphasis supplied.) Petitioner argues that the government is barred from asserting a position contrary to its declared circular if it would result to injustice to taxpayers. Citing ABS CBN Broadcasting Corporation vs. Court of Tax Appeals 10 petitioner claims that rulings or circulars promulgated by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue have no retroactive effect if it would be prejudicial to taxpayers, In ABS-CBN case, the Court held that the government is precluded from adopting a position inconsistent with one previously taken where injustice would result therefrom or where there has been a misrepresentation to the taxpayer. Petitioner contends that Sec. 246 of the National Internal Revenue Code explicitly provides for this rules as follows: Sec. 246 Non-retroactivity of rulings Any revocation, modification or reversal of any of the rules and regulations promulgated in

accordance with the preceding section or any of the rulings or circulars promulgated by the Commissioner shall not be given retroactive application if the revocation, modification or reversal will be prejudicial to the taxpayers except in the following cases: a). where the taxpayer deliberately misstates or omits material facts from his return or in any document required of him by the Bureau of Internal Revenue; b). where the facts subsequently gathered by the Bureau of Internal Revenue are materially different from the facts on which the ruling is based; c). where the taxpayer acted in bad faith.

Respondent Commissioner of Internal Revenue, through Solicitor General, argues that the two-year prescriptive period for filing tax cases in court concerning income tax payments of Corporations is reckoned from the date of filing the Final Adjusted Income Tax Return, which is generally done on April 15 following the close of the calendar year. As precedents, respondent Commissioner cited cases which adhered to this principle, to wit ACCRA Investments Corp. vs. Court of Appeals, et al., 11 and Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs. TMX Sales, Inc., et al.. 12 Respondent Commissioner also states that since the Final Adjusted Income Tax Return of the petitioner for the taxable year 1985 was supposed to be filed on April 15, 1986, the latter had only until April 15, 1988 to seek relief from the court. Further, respondent Commissioner stresses that when the petitioner filed the case before the CTA on November 18, 1988, the same was filed beyond the time fixed by law, and such failure is fatal to petitioner's cause of action. After a careful study of the records and applicable jurisprudence on the matter, we find that, contrary to the petitioner's contention, the relaxation of revenue regulations by RMC 7-85 is not warranted as it disregards the two-year prescriptive period set by law. Basic is the principle that "taxes are the lifeblood of the nation." The primary purpose is to generate funds for the State to finance the needs of the citizenry and to advance the common weal. 13 Due process of law under the Constitution does not require judicial proceedings in tax cases. This must necessarily be so because it is upon taxation that the government chiefly relies to obtain the means to carry on its operations and it is of utmost importance

that the modes adopted to enforce the collection of taxes levied should be summary and interfered with as little as possible. 14 From the same perspective, claims for refund or tax credit should be exercised within the time fixed by law because the BIR being an administrative body enforced to collect taxes, its functions should not be unduly delayed or hampered by incidental matters. Sec. 230 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1977 (now Sec. 229, NIRC of 1997) provides for the prescriptive period for filing a court proceeding for the recovery of tax erroneously or illegally collected, viz.: Sec. 230. Recovery of tax erroneously or illegally collected. No suit or proceeding shall be maintained in any court for the recovery of any national internal revenue tax hereafter alleged to have been erroneously or illegally assessed or collected, or of any penalty claimed to have been collected without authority, or of any sum alleged to have been excessive or in any manner wrongfully collected, until a claim for refund or credit has been duly filed with the Commissioner; but such suit or proceeding may be maintained, whether or not such tax, penalty, or sum has been paid under protest or duress. In any case, no such suit or proceedings shall begun after the expiration of two years from the date of payment of the tax or penalty regardless of any supervening cause that may arise after payment; Provided however, That the Commissioner may, even without a written claim therefor, refund or credit any tax, where on the face of the return upon which payment was made, such payment appears clearly to have been erroneously paid. (Emphasis supplied) The rule states that the taxpayer may file a claim for refund or credit with the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, within two (2) years after payment of tax, before any suit in CTA is commenced. The two-year prescriptive period provided, should be computed from the time of filing the Adjustment Return and final payment of the tax for the year. In Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs. Philippine American Life Insurance Co., 15 this Court explained the application of Sec. 230 of 1977 NIRC, as follows:

Clearly, the prescriptive period of two years should commence to run only from the time that the refund is ascertained, which can only be determined after a final adjustment return is accomplished. In the present case, this date is April 16, 1984, and two years from this date would be April 16, 1986. . . . As we have earlier said in the TMX Sales case, Sections 68. 16 69, 17 and 70 18 on Quarterly Corporate Income Tax Payment and Section 321 should be considered in conjunction with it 19 When the Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued RMC 785, changing the prescriptive period of two years to ten years on claims of excess quarterly income tax payments, such circular created a clear inconsistency with the provision of Sec. 230 of 1977 NIRC. In so doing, the BIR did not simply interpret the law; rather it legislated guidelines contrary to the statute passed by Congress. It bears repeating that Revenue memorandum-circulars are considered administrative rulings (in the sense of more specific and less general interpretations of tax laws) which are issued from time to time by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. It is widely accepted that the interpretation placed upon a statute by the executive officers, whose duty is to enforce it, is entitled to great respect by the courts. Nevertheless, such interpretation is not conclusive and will be ignored if judicially found to be erroneous. 20 Thus, courts will not countenance administrative issuances that override, instead of remaining consistent and in harmony with the law they seek to apply and implement. 21 In the case of People vs. Lim, 22 it was held that rules and regulations issued by administrative officials to implement a law cannot go beyond the terms and provisions of the latter. Appellant contends that Section 2 of FAO No. 37-1 is void because it is not only inconsistent with but is contrary to the provisions and spirit of Act. No 4003 as amended, because whereas the prohibition prescribed in said Fisheries Act was for any single period of time not exceeding five years duration, FAO No 37-1 fixed no period, that is to say, it establishes an absolute ban for all time. This discrepancy between Act No. 4003 and FAO No. 37-1 was probably due to an oversight on the part of Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Of course, in case of discrepancy, the basic Act prevails, for the reason that the regulation or rule issued to implement a law cannot go beyond the terms and provisions of the

latter. . . . In this connection, the attention of the technical men in the offices of Department Heads who draft rules and regulation is called to the importance and necessity of closely following the terms and provisions of the law which they intended to implement, this to avoid any possible misunderstanding or confusion as in the present case. 23 Further, fundamental is the rule that the State cannot be put in estoppel by the mistakes or errors of its officials or agents. 24 As pointed out by the respondent courts, the nullification of RMC No. 7-85 issued by the Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue is an administrative interpretation which is not in harmony with Sec. 230 of 1977 NIRC. for being contrary to the express provision of a statute. Hence, his interpretation could not be given weight for to do so would, in effect, amend the statute. It is likewise argued that the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, after promulgating RMC No. 7-85, is estopped by the principle of non-retroactively of BIR rulings. Again We do not agree. The Memorandum Circular, stating that a taxpayer may recover the excess income tax paid within 10 years from date of payment because this is an obligation created by law, was issued by the Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue. On the other hand, the decision, stating that the taxpayer should still file a claim for a refund or tax credit and corresponding petition fro review within the two-year prescription period, and that the lengthening of the period of limitation on refund from two to ten years would be adverse to public policy and run counter to the positive mandate of Sec. 230, NIRC, - was the ruling and judicial interpretation of the Court of Tax Appeals. Estoppel has no application in the case at bar because it was not the Commissioner of Internal Revenue who denied petitioner's claim of refund or tax credit. Rather, it was the Court of Tax Appeals who denied (albeit correctly) the claim and in effect, ruled that the RMC No. 7-85 issued by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue is an administrative interpretation which is out of harmony with or contrary to the express provision of a statute (specifically Sec. 230, NIRC), hence, cannot be given weight for to do so would in effect amend the statute. 25 Art. 8 of the Civil Code 26 recognizes judicial decisions, applying or interpreting statutes as part of the legal system of the country. But administrative decisions do not enjoy that level of recognition. A memorandum-circular of a bureau head could not operate to vest a

taxpayer with shield against judicial action. For there are no vested rights to speak of respecting a wrong construction of the law by the administrative officials and such wrong interpretation could not place the Government in estoppel to correct or overrule the same. 27 Moreover, the non-retroactivity of rulings by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue is not applicable in this case because the nullity of RMC No. 7-85 was declared by respondent courts and not by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Lastly, it must be noted that, as repeatedly held by this Court, a claim for refund is in the nature of a claim for exemption and should be construed in strictissimi juris against the taxpayer. 28 On the second issue, the petitioner alleges that the Court of Appeals seriously erred in affirming CTA's decision denying its claim for refund of P234,077.69 (tax overpaid in 1986), based on mere speculation, without proof, that PBCom availed of the automatic tax credit in 1987. Sec. 69 of the 1977 NIRC 29 (now Sec. 76 of the 1997 NIRC) provides that any excess of the total quarterly payments over the actual income tax computed in the adjustment or final corporate income tax return, shall either (a) be refunded to the corporation, or (b) may be credited against the estimated quarterly income tax liabilities for the quarters of the succeeding taxable year. The corporation must signify in its annual corporate adjustment return (by marking the option box provided in the BIR form) its intention, whether to request for a refund or claim for an automatic tax credit for the succeeding taxable year. To ease the administration of tax collection, these remedies are in the alternative, and the choice of one precludes the other. As stated by respondent Court of Appeals: Finally, as to the claimed refund of income tax over-paid in 1986 the Court of Tax Appeals, after examining the adjusted final corporate annual income tax return for taxable year 1986, found out that petitioner opted to apply for automatic tax credit. This was the basis used (vis-avis the fact that the 1987 annual corporate tax return was not offered by the petitioner as evidence) by the CTA in concluding that petitioner had indeed availed of and applied the automatic tax credit to the succeeding year, hence it can no longer ask for refund, as to [sic] the two remedies of refund and tax credit are alternative. 30

That the petitioner opted for an automatic tax credit in accordance with Sec. 69 of the 1977 NIRC, as specified in its 1986 Final Adjusted Income Tax Return, is a finding of fact which we must respect. Moreover, the 1987 annual corporate tax return of the petitioner was not offered as evidence to contovert said fact. Thus, we are bound by the findings of fact by respondent courts, there being no showing of gross error or abuse on their part to disturb our reliance thereon. 31 WHEREFORE, the, petition is hereby DENIED, The decision of the Court of Appeals appealed from is AFFIRMED, with COSTS against the petitioner.1wphi1.nt SO ORDERED. Bellosillo, Puno, Mendoza, and Buena, JJ., concur.

EN BANC G.R. No. L-22074

April 30, 1965

the reinsurance contracts were to be arbitrated in Manila. Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. and Swiss Reinsurance Company stipulated that their contract shall be construed by the laws of the Philippines. Pursuant to the aforesaid reinsurance contracts, Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. ceded to the foreign reinsurers the following premiums: 1953 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P842,466.71 1954 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 721,471.85 Said premiums were excluded by Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. from its gross income when it file its income tax returns for 1953 and 1954. Furthermore, it did not withhold or pay tax on them. Consequently, per letter dated April 13, 1959, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue assessed against Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. withholding tax on the ceded reinsurance premiums, thus: 1953 Gross premium per investigation . . . . . . . . . . P768,580.00 Withholding tax due thereon at 24% . . . . . . . . P184,459.00 25% surcharge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46,114.00 Compromise for non-filing of withholding income tax return . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100.00 TOTAL AMOUNT DUE & COLLECTIBLE . . . . P230,673.00 ========== 1954 Gross premium per investigation . . . . . . . . . . P780.880.68 Withholding tax due thereon at 24% . . . . . . . . P184,411.00 25% surcharge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . P184,411.00 Compromise for non-filing of withholding income tax return . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100.00 TOTAL AMOUNT DUE & COLLECTIBLE . . . . P234,364.00 ========== Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc., protested the assessment on the ground that reinsurance premiums ceded to foreign reinsurers not doing business in the Philippines are not subject to withholding tax. Its protest was denied and it appealed to the Court of Tax Appeals. On July 6, 1963, the Court of Tax Appeals rendered judgment with this dispositive portion:

THE PHILIPPINE GUARANTY CO., INC., petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE and THE COURT OF TAX APPEALS, respondents. Josue H. Gustilo and Ramirez and Ortigas for petitioner. Office of the Solicitor General and Attorney V.G. Saldajena for respondents. BENGZON, J.P., J.: The Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc., a domestic insurance company, entered into reinsurance contracts, on various dates, with foreign insurance companies not doing business in the Philippines namely: Imperio Compaia de Seguros, La Union y El Fenix Espaol, Overseas Assurance Corp., Ltd., Socieded Anonima de Reaseguros Alianza, Tokio Marino & Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., Union Assurance Society Ltd., Swiss Reinsurance Company and Tariff Reinsurance Limited. Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc., thereby agreed to cede to the foreign reinsurers a portion of the premiums on insurance it has originally underwritten in the Philippines, in consideration for the assumption by the latter of liability on an equivalent portion of the risks insured. Said reinsurrance contracts were signed by Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. in Manila and by the foreign reinsurers outside the Philippines, except the contract with Swiss Reinsurance Company, which was signed by both parties in Switzerland. The reinsurance contracts made the commencement of the reinsurers' liability simultaneous with that of Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. under the original insurance. Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. was required to keep a register in Manila where the risks ceded to the foreign reinsurers where entered, and entry therein was binding upon the reinsurers. A proportionate amount of taxes on insurance premiums not recovered from the original assured were to be paid for by the foreign reinsurers. The foreign reinsurers further agreed, in consideration for managing or administering their affairs in the Philippines, to compensate the Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc., in an amount equal to 5% of the reinsurance premiums. Conflicts and/or differences between the parties under

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, petitioner Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. is hereby ordered to pay to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue the respective sums of P202,192.00 and P173,153.00 or the total sum of P375,345.00 as withholding income taxes for the years 1953 and 1954, plus the statutory delinquency penalties thereon. With costs against petitioner. Philippine Guaranty Co, Inc. has appealed, questioning the legality of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue's assessment for withholding tax on the reinsurance premiums ceded in 1953 and 1954 to the foreign reinsurers. Petitioner maintain that the reinsurance premiums in question did not constitute income from sources within the Philippines because the foreign reinsurers did not engage in business in the Philippines, nor did they have office here. The reinsurance contracts, however, show that the transactions or activities that constituted the undertaking to reinsure Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. against loses arising from the original insurances in the Philippines were performed in the Philippines. The liability of the foreign reinsurers commenced simultaneously with the liability of Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. under the original insurances. Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. kept in Manila a register of the risks ceded to the foreign reinsurers. Entries made in such register bound the foreign resinsurers, localizing in the Philippines the actual cession of the risks and premiums and assumption of the reinsurance undertaking by the foreign reinsurers. Taxes on premiums imposed by Section 259 of the Tax Code for the privilege of doing insurance business in the Philippines were payable by the foreign reinsurers when the same were not recoverable from the original assured. The foreign reinsurers paid Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. an amount equivalent to 5% of the ceded premiums, in consideration for administration and management by the latter of the affairs of the former in the Philippines in regard to their reinsurance activities here. Disputes and differences between the parties were subject to arbitration in the City of Manila. All the reinsurance contracts, except that with Swiss Reinsurance Company, were signed by Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. in the Philippines and later signed by the foreign reinsurers abroad. Although the contract between Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. and Swiss Reinsurance Company was signed by both parties in Switzerland, the same specifically provided that its provision shall

be construed according to the laws of the Philippines, thereby manifesting a clear intention of the parties to subject themselves to Philippine law. Section 24 of the Tax Code subjects foreign corporations to tax on their income from sources within the Philippines. The word "sources" has been interpreted as the activity, property or service giving rise to the income. 1 The reinsurance premiums were income created from the undertaking of the foreign reinsurance companies to reinsure Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc., against liability for loss under original insurances. Such undertaking, as explained above, took place in the Philippines. These insurance premiums, therefore, came from sources within the Philippines and, hence, are subject to corporate income tax. The foreign insurers' place of business should not be confused with their place of activity. Business should not be continuity and progression of transactions 2 while activity may consist of only a single transaction. An activity may occur outside the place of business. Section 24 of the Tax Code does not require a foreign corporation to engage in business in the Philippines in subjecting its income to tax. It suffices that the activity creating the income is performed or done in the Philippines. What is controlling, therefore, is not the place of business but the place of activity that created an income. Petitioner further contends that the reinsurance premiums are not income from sources within the Philippines because they are not specifically mentioned in Section 37 of the Tax Code. Section 37 is not an all-inclusive enumeration, for it merely directs that the kinds of income mentioned therein should be treated as income from sources within the Philippines but it does not require that other kinds of income should not be considered likewise.1wph1.t The power to tax is an attribute of sovereignty. It is a power emanating from necessity. It is a necessary burden to preserve the State's sovereignty and a means to give the citizenry an army to resist an aggression, a navy to defend its shores from invasion, a corps of civil servants to serve, public improvement designed for the enjoyment of the citizenry and those which come within the State's territory, and facilities and protection which a government is supposed to provide. Considering that the reinsurance premiums in question were afforded protection by the government and the recipient foreign reinsurers exercised rights and privileges

guaranteed by our laws, such reinsurance premiums and reinsurers should share the burden of maintaining the state. Petitioner would wish to stress that its reliance in good faith on the rulings of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue requiring no withholding of the tax due on the reinsurance premiums in question relieved it of the duty to pay the corresponding withholding tax thereon. This defense of petitioner may free if from the payment of surcharges or penalties imposed for failure to pay the corresponding withholding tax, but it certainly would not exculpate if from liability to pay such withholding tax The Government is not estopped from collecting taxes by the mistakes or errors of its agents.3 In respect to the question of whether or not reinsurance premiums ceded to foreign reinsurers not doing business in the Philippines are subject to withholding tax under Section 53 and 54 of the Tax Code, suffice it to state that this question has already been answered in the affirmative in Alexander Howden & Co., Ltd. vs. Collector of Internal Revenue, L-19393, April 14, 1965. Finally, petitioner contends that the withholding tax should be computed from the amount actually remitted to the foreign reinsurers instead of from the total amount ceded. And since it did not remit any amount to its foreign insurers in 1953 and 1954, no withholding tax was due. The pertinent section of the Tax Code States: Sec. 54. Payment of corporation income tax at source. In the case of foreign corporations subject to taxation under this Title not engaged in trade or business within the Philippines and not having any office or place of business therein, there shall be deducted and withheld at the source in the same manner and upon the same items as is provided in Section fifty-three a tax equal to twentyfour per centum thereof, and such tax shall be returned and paid in the same manner and subject to the same conditions as provided in that section. The applicable portion of Section 53 provides: (b) Nonresident aliens. All persons, corporations and general copartnerships (compaias colectivas), in what ever capacity acting, including lessees or mortgagors of real or personal

property, trustees acting in any trust capacity, executors, administrators, receivers, conservators, fiduciaries, employers, and all officers and employees of the Government of the Philippines having the control, receipt, custody, disposal, or payment of interest, dividends, rents, salaries, wages, premiums, annuities, compensation, remunerations, emoluments, or other fixed or determinable annual or periodical gains, profits, and income of any nonresident alien individual, not engaged in trade or business within the Philippines and not having any office or place of business therein, shall (except in the case provided for in subsection [a] of this section) deduct and withhold from such annual or periodical gains, profits, and income a tax equal to twelve per centum thereof: Provided That no deductions or withholding shall be required in the case of dividends paid by a foreign corporation unless (1) such corporation is engaged in trade or business within the Philippines or has an office or place of business therein, and (2) more than eighty-five per centum of the gross income of such corporation for the three-year period ending with the close of its taxable year preceding the declaration of such dividends (or for such part of such period as the corporation has been in existence)was derived from sources within the Philippines as determined under the provisions of section thirty-seven: Provided, further, That the Collector of Internal Revenue may authorize such tax to be deducted and withheld from the interest upon any securities the owners of which are not known to the withholding agent. The above-quoted provisions allow no deduction from the income therein enumerated in determining the amount to be withheld. According, in computing the withholding tax due on the reinsurance premium in question, no deduction shall be recognized. WHEREFORE, in affirming the decision appealed from, the Philippine Guaranty Co., Inc. is hereby ordered to pay to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue the sums of P202,192.00 and P173,153.00, or a total amount of P375,345.00, as withholding tax for the years 1953 and 1954, respectively. If the amount of P375,345.00 is not paid within 30 days from the date this judgement becomes final, there shall be collected a surcharged of 5% on the amount unpaid, plus interest at the rate of 1% a month from the date of delinquency to the date of payment, provided that the maximum amount that may be collected as interest shall not exceed the amount corresponding to a period of three (3) years. With costs againsts petitioner.

THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. 125704

August 28, 1998

PHILEX MINING CORPORATION, petitioner, vs. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, COURT OF APPEALS, and THE COURT OF TAX APPEALS, respondents. ROMERO, J.: Petitioner Philex Mining Corp. assails the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on April 8, 1996 in CA-G.R. SP No. 36975 1 affirming the Court of Tax Appeals decision in CTA Case No. 4872 dated March 16, 1995 2 ordering it to pay the amount of P110,677,668.52 as excise tax liability for the period from the 2nd quarter of 1991 to the 2nd quarter of 1992 plus 20% annual interest from August 6, 1994 until fully paid pursuant to Sections 248 and 249 of the Tax Code of 1977. The facts show that on August 5, 1992, the BIR sent a letter to Philex asking it to settle its tax liabilities for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarter of 1991 as well as the 1st and 2nd quarter of 1992 in the total amount of P123,821.982.52 computed as follows: PERIOD COVERED BASIC TAX TOTAL EXCISE TAX DUE 2nd Qtr., 1991 12,911,124.60 3,378,116.16 19,517,021.91 3rd Qtr., 1991 14,994,749.21 2,978,409.09 21,721,845.60 4th Qtr., 1991 19,406,480.13 2,631,837.72 26,889,937.88 3,227,781.15 3,748,687.30 4,851,620.03 8,988,362.97 25% SURCHARGE INTEREST

1st Qtr., 199223,341,849.94 30,887,982.25 2nd Qtr., 1992 215,580.18

5,835,462.49 1,710,669.82 4,917,922.94 1,926,250.00 10,914,612.97 =========

19,671,691.76 24,805,194.88

43,013,541.70 10,753,385.43 55,693,177.13

90,325,895.64 123,821,982.52 3

22,581,473.91

========= ========= =========

In a letter dated August 20, 1992, 4 Philex protested the demand for payment of the tax liabilities stating that it has pending claims for VAT input credit/refund for the taxes it paid for the years 1989 to 1991 in the amount of P119,977,037.02 plus interest. Therefore these claims for tax credit/refund should be applied against the tax liabilities, citing our ruling in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Itogon-Suyoc Mines, Inc. 5 In reply, the BIR, in a letter dated September 7, 1992, 6 found no merit in Philex's position. Since these pending claims have not yet been established or determined with certainty, it follows that no legal compensation can take place. Hence, the BIR reiterated its demand that Philex settle the amount plus interest within 30 days from the receipt of the letter. In view of the BIR's denial of the offsetting of Philex's claim for VAT input credit/refund against its excise tax obligation, Philex raised the issue to the Court of Tax Appeals on November 6, 1992. 7 In the course of the proceedings, the BIR issued Tax Credit Certificate SN 001795 in the amount of P13,144,313.88 which, applied to the total tax liabilities of Philex of P123,821,982.52; effectively lowered the latter's tax obligation to P110,677,688.52.

47,312,353.94 11,828,088.48 68,128,805.39

Despite the reduction of its tax liabilities, the CTA still ordered Philex to pay the remaining balance of P110,677,688.52 plus interest, elucidating its reason, to wit: Thus, for legal compensation to take place, both obligations must be liquidated and demandable. "Liquidated" debts are those where the exact amount has already been determined (PARAS, Civil Code of the Philippines, Annotated, Vol. IV, Ninth Edition, p. 259). In the instant case, the claims of the Petitioner for VAT refund is still pending litigation, and still has to be determined by this Court (C.T.A. Case No. 4707). A fortiori, the liquidated debt of the Petitioner to the government cannot, therefore, be set-off against the unliquidated claim which Petitioner conceived to exist in its favor (see Compaia General de Tabacos vs. French and Unson, No. 14027, November 8, 1918, 39 Phil. 34). 8 Moreover, the Court of Tax Appeals ruled that "taxes cannot be subject to set-off on compensation since claim for taxes is not a debt or contract." 9 The dispositive portion of the CTA decision 10 provides: In all the foregoing, this Petition for Review is hereby DENIED for lack of merit and Petitioner is hereby ORDERED to PAY the Respondent the amount of P110,677,668.52 representing excise tax liability for the period from the 2nd quarter of 1991 to the 2nd quarter of 1992 plus 20% annual interest from August 6, 1994 until fully paid pursuant to Section 248 and 249 of the Tax Code, as amended. Aggrieved with the decision, Philex appealed the case before the Court of Appeals docketed as CA-GR. CV No. 36975. 11 Nonetheless, on April 8, 1996, the Court of Appeals a Affirmed the Court of Tax Appeals observation. The pertinent portion of which reads: 12 WHEREFORE, the appeal by way of petition for review is hereby DISMISSED and the decision dated March 16, 1995 is AFFIRMED. Philex filed a motion for reconsideration which was, nevertheless, denied in a Resolution dated July 11, 1996. 13 However, a few days after the denial of its motion for reconsideration, Philex was able to obtain its VAT input

credit/refund not only for the taxable year 1989 to 1991 but also for 1992 and 1994, computed as follows: 14 Period Covered Tax Credit of Issue Amount 11 July 1996 P25,317,534.01 11 July 1996 P21,791,020.61 Date

By Claims For Certificate VAT refund/credit

Number

1994 (2nd Quarter) 007730 1994 (4th Quarter) 1989 007732 007731

11 July 1996 P37,322,799.19 16 July 1996 P84,662,787.46 007755 23 July 1996

1990-1991

007751

1992 (1st-3rd Quarter) P36,501,147.95

In view of the grant of its VAT input credit/refund, Philex now contends that the same should, ipso jure, off-set its excise tax liabilities 15 since both had already become "due and demandable, as well as fully liquidated;" 16 hence, legal compensation can properly take place. We see no merit in this contention. In several instances prior to the instant case, we have already made the pronouncement that taxes cannot be subject to compensation for the simple reason that the government and the taxpayer are not creditors and debtors of each other. 17 There is a material distinction between a tax and debt. Debts are due to the Government in its corporate capacity, while taxes are due to the Government in its sovereign capacity. 18 We find no cogent reason to deviate from the aforementioned distinction. Prescinding from this premise, in Francia v. Intermediate Appellate Court, 19 we categorically held that taxes cannot be subject to setoff or compensation, thus: We have consistently ruled that there can be no off-setting of taxes against the claims that the taxpayer may have against the government. A person cannot refuse to pay a tax on the ground

that the government owes him an amount equal to or greater than the tax being collected. The collection of a tax cannot await the results of a lawsuit against the government. The ruling in Francia has been applied to the subsequent case of Caltex Philippines, Inc. v. Commission on Audit, 20 which reiterated that: . . . a taxpayer may not offset taxes due from the claims that he may have against the government. Taxes cannot be the subject of compensation because the government and taxpayer are not mutually creditors and debtors of each other and a claim for taxes is not such a debt, demand, contract or judgment as is allowed to be set-off. Further, Philex's reliance on our holding in Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Itogon-Suyoc Mines Inc., wherein we ruled that a pending refund may be set off against an existing tax liability even though the refund has not yet been approved by the Commissioner, 21 is no longer without any support in statutory law. It is important to note, that the premise of our ruling in the aforementioned case was anchored on Section 51 (d) of the National Revenue Code of 1939. However, when the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977 was enacted, the same provision upon which the Itogon-Suyoc pronouncement was based was omitted. 22 Accordingly, the doctrine enunciated in Itogon-Suyoc cannot be invoked by Philex. Despite the foregoing rulings clearly adverse to Philex's position, it asserts that the imposition of surcharge and interest for the nonpayment of the excise taxes within the time prescribed was unjustified. Philex posits the theory that it had no obligation to pay the excise tax liabilities within the prescribed period since, after all, it still has pending claims for VAT input credit/refund with BIR. 23 We fail to see the logic of Philex's claim for this is an outright disregard of the basic principle in tax law that taxes are the lifeblood of the government and so should be collected without unnecessary hindrance. 24 Evidently, to countenance Philex's whimsical reason would render ineffective our tax collection system. Too simplistic, it finds no support in law or in jurisprudence.

To be sure, we cannot allow Philex to refuse the payment of its tax liabilities on the ground that it has a pending tax claim for refund or credit against the government which has not yet been granted. It must be noted that a distinguishing feature of a tax is that it is compulsory rather than a matter of bargain. 25 Hence, a tax does not depend upon the consent of the taxpayer. 26 If any taxpayer can defer the payment of taxes by raising the defense that it still has a pending claim for refund or credit, this would adversely affect the government revenue system. A taxpayer cannot refuse to pay his taxes when they fall due simply because he has a claim against the government or that the collection of the tax is contingent on the result of the lawsuit it filed against the government. 27 Moreover, Philex's theory that would automatically apply its VAT input credit/refund against its tax liabilities can easily give rise to confusion and abuse, depriving the government of authority over the manner by which taxpayers credit and offset their tax liabilities. Corollarily, the fact that Philex has pending claims for VAT input claim/refund with the government is immaterial for the imposition of charges and penalties prescribed under Section 248 and 249 of the Tax Code of 1977. The payment of the surcharge is mandatory and the BIR is not vested with any authority to waive the collection thereof. 28 The same cannot be condoned for flimsy reasons, 29 similar to the one advanced by Philex in justifying its non-payment of its tax liabilities. Finally, Philex asserts that the BIR violated Section 106 (e) 30 of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1977, which requires the refund of input taxes within 60 days, 31 when it took five years for the latter to grant its tax claim for VAT input credit/refund. 32 In this regard, we agree with Philex. While there is no dispute that a claimant has the burden of proof to establish the factual basis of his or her claim for tax credit or refund, 33 however, once the claimant has submitted all the required documents it is the function of the BIR to assess these documents with purposeful dispatch. After all, since taxpayers owe honestly to government it is but just that government render fair service to the taxpayers. 34 In the instant case, the VAT input taxes were paid between 1989 to 1991 but the refund of these erroneously paid taxes was only granted in 1996. Obviously, had the BIR been more diligent and

judicious with their duty, it could have granted the refund earlier. We need not remind the BIR that simple justice requires the speedy refund of wrongly-held taxes. 35 Fair dealing and nothing less, is expected by the taxpayer from the BIR in the latter's discharge of its function. As aptly held in Roxas v. Court of Tax Appeals: 36 The power of taxation is sometimes called also the power to destroy. Therefore it should be exercised with caution to minimize injury to the proprietary rights of a taxpayer. It must be exercised fairly, equally and uniformly, lest the tax collector kill the "hen that lays the golden egg" And, in order to maintain the general public's trust and confidence in the Government this power must be used justly and not treacherously. Despite our concern with the lethargic manner by which the BIR handled Philex's tax claim, it is a settled rule that in the performance of governmental function, the State is not bound by the neglect of its agents and officers. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of taxation. 37 Again, while we understand Philex's predicament, it must be stressed that the same is not a valid reason for the non-payment of its tax liabilities. To be sure, this is not to state that the taxpayer is devoid of remedy against public servants or employees, especially BIR examiners who, in investigating tax claims are seen to drag their feet needlessly. First, if the BIR takes time in acting upon the taxpayer's claim for refund, the latter can seek judicial remedy before the Court of Tax Appeals in the manner prescribed by law. 38 Second, if the inaction can be characterized as willful neglect of duty, then recourse under the Civil Code and the Tax Code can also be availed of. Art. 27 of the Civil Code provides: Art. 27. Any person suffering material or moral loss because a public servant or employee refuses or neglects, without just cause, to perform his official duty may file an action for damages and other relief against the latter, without prejudice to any disciplinary action that may be taken. More importantly, Section 269 (c) of the National Internal Revenue Act of 1997 states:

xxx

xxx

xxx

(c) Wilfully neglecting to give receipts, as by law required for any sum collected in the performance of duty or wilfully neglecting to perform, any other duties enjoyed by law. Simply put, both provisions abhor official inaction, willful neglect and unreasonable delay in the performance of official duties. 39 In no uncertain terms must we stress that every public employee or servant must strive to render service to the people with utmost diligence and efficiency. Insolence and delay have no place in government service. The BIR, being the government collecting arm, must and should do no less. It simply cannot be apathetic and laggard in rendering service to the taxpayer if it wishes to remain true to its mission of hastening the country's development. We take judicial notice of the taxpayer's generally negative perception towards the BIR; hence, it is up to the latter to prove its detractors wrong. In sum, while we can never condone the BIR's apparent callousness in performing its duties, still, the same cannot justify Philex's non-payment of its tax liabilities. The adage "no one should take the law into his own hands" should have guided Philex's action. WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED. The assailed decision of the Court of Appeals dated April 8, 1996 is hereby AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED. Narvasa, C.J., Kapunan and Purisima, JJ., concur.

EN BANC G.R. No. L-12353

September 30, 1960

NORTH CAMARINES LUMBER CO., INC., petitioner, vs. COLLECTOR OF INTERNAL REVENUE, respondent. Miguel San Jose and A.B. Christi for petitioner. Assistant Solicitor General Jose P. Alejandro and Atty. S. D. Paredes for respondent. PARAS, C.J.: This is an appeal from the resolution of the Court of Tax Appeals dismissing the petition for review filed by the petitioner for lack of jurisdiction to try it on the merits, the same having been filed beyond the 30-day period fixed in Section 11 of Republic Act No. 1125. The petitioner, North Camarines Lumber Co., Inc., is a domestic corporation engaged in the lumber business. On June 19, 1951 and July 31, 1951, it sold a total of 2,164,863 board feet of logs to the General Lumber Co., Inc., with the agreement that the latter would assume responsibility for the payment of the sales tax thereon in the amount of P7,768.51. After being consulted on the matter, the respondent Collector of Internal Revenue, in his letters dated June 18, 1951 and August 6, 1951, advised the petitioner that he was interposing no objection to the arrangement, provided the General Lumber Co., Inc., would file the corresponding bonds to cover the sales tax liabilities. The General Lumber Co., Inc., complied with the condition. In view, however, of its failure and that of the surety to pay the tax liabilities, the respondent Collector, in his letter dated August 30, 1955, required the petitioner to pay the total amount of P9,598.72 as sales tax and incidental penalties in the sale of logs to the General Lumber Co., Inc. Although the date of receipt by petitioner of this letter does not appeal in the records, it may be presumed to be September 9, 1955, when the petitioner addressed a letter to the respondent Collector, which was received on September 12, 1955, wherein the petitioner acknowledged receipt of the letter of demand and at the same time requested for the reconsideration of the assessment. This was denied by the respondent Collector in his letter of December 8, 1955, received by

the petitioner on January 5, 1956. The respondent Collector having denied the second request for reconsideration in his letter dated January 30, 1956, which the petitioner received on February 16, 1956, the latter, on March 13, 1956, filed a petition for review with the Court of Tax Appeals. The Court, after a preliminary hearing on respondent Collector's motion to dismiss, ruled that, as the petition was filed beyond the 30-day period prescribed by Section 11 of Republic Act No. 1125, it has no jurisdiction to try the same. Accordingly, the case was dismissed. In contending that the Court of Tax Appeals erred, the petitioner points out that Section 7, and not Section 11, of Republic Act No. 1125 confers and determines the jurisdiction of the respondent court, and that Section 11 refers merely to the prescriptive period for filing appeals. While the petitioner is correct as to the attribute of Section 7, it should be remembered that, for the respondent court to have jurisdiction over any case, the party seeking redress must first invoke its exercise in the manner and within the time prescribed by the law. Thus Section 7, which enumerates the specific cases falling within the jurisdiction of the Court of Tax Appeals must be read together with Section 11, which fixes the time for invoking said jurisdiction.1awphl.nt There is no question that petitioner's case is covered by Section 7 and, therefore, comes within the jurisdiction of the respondent court. But we said jurisdiction invoked by the petitioner within the period prescribed by Section 11? The respondent court ruled that the time consumed by the petitioner in perfecting its appeal after deducting the time during which the period for appeal was suspended by a pending request for reconsideration is as follows: From September 9, 1955, presumed date of receipt of decision, to September 12, 1955, the filing of request for reconsideration ................................................................ 3 days From January 5, 1956, presumed date of receipt of denial of reconsideration, to January 9, 1956, the filing of the second request for reconsideration ................................................................

4 days From February 16, 1956, receipt of denial of second request for reconsideration, to March 13, 1956, the filing of petition for review ................................................................ 26 days Total ................................................................ 33 days As the petitioner had consumed thirty-three days, its appeal was clearly filed out of time. It is argued, however, that in computing the 30-day period fixed in Section 11 of Republic Act No. 1125, the letter of the respondent Collector dated January 30, 1956, denying the second request for reconsideration, should be considered as the final decision contemplated in Section 7, and not the letter of demand dated August 30, 1955. This contention is untenable. We cannot countenance that theory that would make the commencement of the statutory 30day period solely dependent on the will of the taxpayer and place the latter in a position to put off indefinitely and at his convenience the finality of a tax assessment. Such an absurd procedure would be detrimental to the interest of the Government, for "taxes are the lifeblood of the government, and their prompt and certain availability an imperious need." (Bull vs. U.S. 295, U.S. 247). WHEREFORE, the resolution appealed from is affirmed, with costs. 3m 3 so ordered. Bengzon, Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera, Gutierrez David, Paredes and Dizon, JJ., concur.