Tax Digest

Commissioner Of Internal Revenue vs. Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inc.

G.R. No. 213943, March 22, 2017

Carpio, J.

FACTS:

PDI is a corporation engaged in the business of newspaper publication. On 15 April 2005, it filed its Annual Income Tax Return for taxable year 2004. On 10 August 2006, PDI received a letter dated 30 June 2006 from Region 020 Large Taxpayers’ Service of BIR. BIR alleged that there was an underdeclaration of domestic purchases from its suppliers amounting to P317,705,610.52. In response, PDI submitted reconciliation reports.

On 21 March 2007, PDI executed a Waiver of the Statute of Limitation (First Waiver) consenting to the assessment and/or collection of taxes for the year 2004 which may be found due after the investigation, at any time before or after the lapse of the period of limitations fixed by Sections 203 and 222 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) but not later than 30 June 2007. The First Waiver was received on 23 March 2007. On 5 June 2007, PDI executed a Waiver of the Statute of Limitation (Second Waiver), which was accepted on 8 June 2007. In a letter dated 12 December 2007, PDI sought reconsideration of the PAN and expressed its willingness to execute another Waiver (Third Waiver), which it did on the same date, thus extending BIR’s right to assess and/or collect from it until 30 April 2008.

On 17 April 2008, PDI received a Formal Letter of Demand dated 11 March 2008 and an Audit Result/ Assessment Notice from the BIR, demanding for the payment of alleged deficiency VAT and income tax. On 16 May 2008, PDI filed its protest. On 12 December 2008, PDI filed a Petition for Review against the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) alleging that the 180-day period within which the BIR should act on its protest had already lapsed. The Court of Tax Appeals First Division ruled in favor of PDI stating that the period of assessment must not extend indefinitely because doing so will deprive the taxpayer of the assurance that it will not be subjected to further investigation after the expiration of a reasonable period of time. It held that the three-year prescriptive period under Section 203 of the NIRC applies in this case since PDI introduced proof that the determination made by the CIR on the supposed overdeclared input tax of ₱l,601,652.43 is not correct.

ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioner’s right to assess respondent for deficiency VAT and income tax has prescribed

HELD:

Yes. In Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Javier (276 Phil. 914), this Court ruled that fraud is never imputed. The Court stated that it will not sustain findings of fraud upon circumstances which, at most, create only suspicion. The Court added that the mere understatement of a tax is not itself proof of fraud for the purpose of tax evasion. In this case, the Court does not find enough evidence to prove fraud or intentional falsity on the part of PDI.

Since the case does not fall under the exceptions, Section 203 of the NIRC should apply. It provides:

SEC. 203. Period of Limitation Upon Assessment and Collection. – Except as provided in Section 222, internal revenue taxes shall be assessed within three (3) years after the last day prescribed by law for the filing of the return, and no proceeding in court without assessment for the collection of such taxes shall be begun after the expiration of such period. Provided, That in a case where a return is filed beyond the period prescribed by law, the three (3)-year period shall be counted from the day the return was filed. For purposes of this Section, a return filed before the last day prescribed by law for the filing thereof shall be considered as filed on such last day.

Indeed, the Waivers executed by the BIR and PDI were meant to extend the three-year prescriptive period, and would have extended such period were it not for the defects found by the CTA. In this case, the CTA found that contrary to PDI’s allegations, the First and Second Waivers were executed in three copies. However, the CTA also found that the CIR failed to provide the office accepting the First and Second Waivers with their respective third copies, as the CTA found them still attached to the docket of the case. In addition, the CTA found that the Third Waiver was not executed in three copies.

The failure to provide the office accepting the waiver with the third copy violates RMO 20-90 and RDAO 05-01. Therefore, the First Waiver was not properly executed on 21 March 2007 and thus, could not have extended the three-year prescriptive period to assess and collect taxes for the year 2004. To make matters worse, the CIR committed the same error in the execution of the Second Waiver on 5 June 2007. Even if we consider that the First Waiver was validly executed, the Second Waiver failed to extend the prescriptive period because its execution was contrary to the procedure set forth in RMO 20-90 and RDAO 05-01. Granting further that the First and Second Waivers were validly executed, the Third Waiver executed on 12 December 2007 still failed to extend the three-year prescriptive period because it was not executed in three copies. In short, the records of the case showed that the CIR’s three-year prescriptive period to assess deficiency tax had already prescribed due to the defects of all the Waivers.

Clearly, the defects in the Waivers resulted to the non-extension of the period to assess or collect taxes, and made the assessments issued by the BIR beyond the three-year prescriptive period void. Since the three Waivers in this case are defective, they do not produce any effect and did not suspend the three-year prescriptive period under Section 203 of the NIRC.

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