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Unformatted text preview: Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila FIRST DIVISION G.R. No. L-28896 February 17, 1988 COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, petitioner, vs. ALGUE, INC., and THE COURT OF TAX APPEALS, respondents. CRUZ, J.: Taxes are the lifeblood of the government and so should be collected without unnecessary hindrance On the other hand, 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. The main issue in this case is whether or not the Collector of Internal Revenue correctly disallowed the P75,000.00 deduction claimed by private respondent Algue as legitimate business expenses in its income tax returns. The corollary issue is whether or not the appeal of the private respondent from the decision of the Collector of Internal Revenue was made on time and in accordance with law. We deal first with the procedural question. The record shows that on January 14, 1965, the private respondent, a domestic corporation engaged in engineering, construction and other allied activities, received a letter from the petitioner assessing it in the total amount of P83,183.85 as delinquency income taxes for the years 1958 and 1959. 1 On January 18, 1965, Algue flied a letter of protest or request for reconsideration, which letter was stamp received on the same day in the office of the petitioner. 2 On March 12, 1965, a warrant of distraint and levy was presented to the private respondent, through its counsel, Atty. Alberto Guevara, Jr., who refused to receive it on the ground of the pending protest. 3 A search of the protest in the dockets of the case proved fruitless. 1 Atty. Guevara produced his file copy and gave a photostat to BIR agent Ramon Reyes, who deferred service of the warrant. 4 On April 7, 1965, Atty. Guevara was finally informed that the BIR was not taking any action on the protest and it was only then that he accepted the warrant of distraint and levy earlier sought to be served. 5 Sixteen days later, on April 23, 1965, Algue filed a petition for review of the decision of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue with the Court of Tax Appeals. 6 The above chronology shows that the petition was filed seasonably. According to Rep. Act No. 1125, the appeal may be made within thirty days after receipt of the decision or ruling challenged. 7 It is true that as a rule the warrant of distraint and levy is "proof of the finality of the assessment" 8 and renders hopeless a request for reconsideration," 9 being "tantamount to an outright denial thereof and makes the said request deemed rejected." 10 But there is a special circumstance in the case at bar that prevents application of this accepted doctrine. The proven fact is that four days after the private respondent received the petitioner's notice of assessment, it filed its letter of protest. This was apparently not taken into account before the warrant of distraint and levy was issued; indeed, such protest could not be located in the office of the petitioner. It was only after Atty. Guevara gave the BIR a copy of the protest that it was, if at all, considered by the tax authorities. During the intervening period, the warrant was premature and could therefore not be served. As the Court of Tax Appeals correctly noted," 11 the protest filed by private respondent was not pro forma and was based on strong legal considerations. It thus had the effect of suspending on January 18, 1965, when it was filed, the reglementary period which started on the date the assessment was received, viz., January 14, 1965. The period started running again only on April 7, 1965, when the private respondent was definitely informed of the implied rejection of the said protest and the warrant was finally served on it. Hence, when the appeal was filed on April 23, 1965, only 20 days of the reglementary period had been consumed. Now for the substantive question. The petitioner contends that the claimed deduction of P75,000.00 was properly disallowed because it was not an ordinary reasonable or 2 necessary business expense. The Court of Tax Appeals had seen it differently. Agreeing with Algue, it held that the said amount had been legitimately paid by the private respondent for actual services rendered. The payment was in the form of promotional fees. These were collected by the Payees for their work in the creation of the Vegetable Oil Investment Corporation of the Philippines and its subsequent purchase of the properties of the Philippine Sugar Estate Development Company. Parenthetically, it may be observed that the petitioner had Originally claimed these promotional fees to be personal holding company income 12 but later conformed to the decision of the respondent court rejecting this assertion. 13 In fact, as the said court found, the amount was earned through the joint efforts of the persons among whom it was distributed It has been established that the Philippine Sugar Estate Development Company had earlier appointed Algue as its agent, authorizing it to sell its land, factories and oil manufacturing process. Pursuant to such authority, Alberto Guevara, Jr., Eduardo Guevara, Isabel Guevara, Edith, O'Farell, and Pablo Sanchez, worked for the formation of the Vegetable Oil Investment Corporation, inducing other persons to invest in it. 14 Ultimately, after its incorporation largely through the promotion of the said persons, this new corporation purchased the PSEDC properties. 15 For this sale, Algue received as agent a commission of P126,000.00, and it was from this commission that the P75,000.00 promotional fees were paid to the aforenamed individuals. 16 There is no dispute that the payees duly reported their respective shares of the fees in their income tax returns and paid the corresponding taxes thereon. 17 The Court of Tax Appeals also found, after examining the evidence, that no distribution of dividends was involved. 18 The petitioner claims that these payments are fictitious because most of the payees are members of the same family in control of Algue. It is argued that no indication was made as to how such payments were made, whether by check or in cash, and there is not enough substantiation of such payments. In short, the petitioner suggests a tax dodge, an attempt to evade a legitimate assessment by involving an imaginary deduction. We find that these suspicions were adequately met by the private respondent when its President, Alberto Guevara, and the accountant, Cecilia V. de Jesus, testified that the payments were not made in one lump 3 sum but periodically and in different amounts as each payee's need arose. 19 It should be remembered that this was a family corporation where strict business procedures were not applied and immediate issuance of receipts was not required. Even so, at the end of the year, when the books were to be closed, each payee made an accounting of all of the fees received by him or her, to make up the total of P75,000.00. 20 Admittedly, everything seemed to be informal. This arrangement was understandable, however, in view of the close relationship among the persons in the family corporation. We agree with the respondent court that the amount of the promotional fees was not excessive. The total commission paid by the Philippine Sugar Estate Development Co. to the private respondent was P125,000.00. 21 After deducting the said fees, Algue still had a balance of P50,000.00 as clear profit from the transaction. The amount of P75,000.00 was 60% of the total commission. This was a reasonable proportion, considering that it was the payees who did practically everything, from the formation of the Vegetable Oil Investment Corporation to the actual purchase by it of the Sugar Estate properties. This finding of the respondent court is in accord with the following provision of the Tax Code: SEC. 30. Deductions from gross income.--In computing net income there shall be allowed as deductions — (a) Expenses: (1) In general.--All the ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business, including a reasonable allowance for salaries or other compensation for personal services actually rendered; ... 22 and Revenue Regulations No. 2, Section 70 (1), reading as follows: SEC. 70. Compensation for personal services.--Among the ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred in carrying on any trade or business may be included a reasonable allowance for salaries or other compensation for personal services actually rendered. The test of deductibility in the case of compensation payments is whether they are reasonable and are, in fact, payments purely for service. This test and deductibility in the case of compensation payments is whether they are reasonable and are, in fact, 4 payments purely for service. This test and its practical application may be further stated and illustrated as follows: Any amount paid in the form of compensation, but not in fact as the purchase price of services, is not deductible. (a) An ostensible salary paid by a corporation may be a distribution of a dividend on stock. This is likely to occur in the case of a corporation having few stockholders, Practically all of whom draw salaries. If in such a case the salaries are in excess of those ordinarily paid for similar services, and the excessive payment correspond or bear a close relationship to the stockholdings of the officers of employees, it would seem likely that the salaries are not paid wholly for services rendered, but the excessive payments are a distribution of earnings upon the stock. . . . (Promulgated Feb. 11, 1931, 30 O.G. No. 18, 325.) It is worth noting at this point that most of the payees were not in the regular employ of Algue nor were they its controlling stockholders. 23 The Solicitor General is correct when he says that the burden is on the taxpayer to prove the validity of the claimed deduction. In the present case, however, we find that the onus has been discharged satisfactorily. The private respondent has proved that the payment of the fees was necessary and reasonable in the light of the efforts exerted by the payees in inducing investors and prominent businessmen to venture in an experimental enterprise and involve themselves in a new business requiring millions of pesos. This was no mean feat and should be, as it was, sufficiently recompensed. It is said that taxes are what we pay for civilized society. Without taxes, the government would be paralyzed for lack of the motive power to activate and operate it. Hence, despite the natural reluctance to surrender part of one's hard earned income to the taxing authorities, every person who is able to must contribute his share in the running of the government. The government for its part, is expected to respond in the form of tangible and intangible benefits intended to improve the lives of the people and enhance their moral and material values. This symbiotic relationship is the rationale of taxation and should dispel the erroneous notion that it is an arbitrary method of exaction by those in the seat of power. 5 But even as we concede the inevitability and indispensability of taxation, it is a requirement in all democratic regimes that it be exercised reasonably and in accordance with the prescribed procedure. If it is not, then the taxpayer has a right to complain and the courts will then come to his succor. For all the awesome power of the tax collector, he may still be stopped in his tracks if the taxpayer can demonstrate, as it has here, that the law has not been observed. We hold that the appeal of the private respondent from the decision of the petitioner was filed on time with the respondent court in accordance with Rep. Act No. 1125. And we also find that the claimed deduction by the private respondent was permitted under the Internal Revenue Code and should therefore not have been disallowed by the petitioner. ACCORDINGLY, the appealed decision of the Court of Tax Appeals is AFFIRMED in toto, without costs. SO ORDERED. Teehankee, C.J., Narvasa, Gancayco and Griño-Aquino, JJ., concur. Footnotes 1 Rollo, pp. 28-29. 2 Ibid., pp. 29; 42. 3 Id., p. 29. 4 Respondent's Brief, p. 11. 5 Id., p. 29. 6 Id, 7 Sec. 11. 8 Phil. Planters Investment Co. Inc. v. Comm. of Internal Revenue, CTA Case No. 1266, Nov. 11, 1962; Rollo, p. 30. 6 9 Vicente Hilado v. Comm. of Internal Revenue, CTA Case No. 1266, Oct. 22,1962; Rollo, p. 30. 10 Ibid. 11 Penned by Associate Judge Estanislao R. Alvarez, concurred by Presiding Judge Ramon M. Umali and Associate Judge Ramon L. Avanceña. 12 Rollo, p. 33. 13 Ibid., pp. 7-8; Petition, pp. 2-3. 11 Id., p. 37. 15 Id. 16 Id. 17 Id. 18 Id. 19 Respondents Brief, pp. 25-32. 20 Ibid., pp. 30-32. 21 Rollo, p. 37. 22 Now Sec. 30, (a)(1)-(A.), National Internal Revenue Code. 23 Respondent's Brief, p. 35. 7 Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT Manila THIRD DIVISION G.R. No. L-67649 June 28, 1988 ENGRACIO FRANCIA, petitioner, vs. INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT and HO FERNANDEZ, respondents. GUTIERREZ, JR., J.: The petitioner invokes legal and equitable grounds to reverse the questioned decision of the Intermediate Appellate Court, to set aside the auction sale of his property which took place on December 5, 1977, and to allow him to recover a 203 square meter lot which was, sold at public auction to Ho Fernandez and ordered titled in the latter's name. The antecedent facts are as follows: Engracio Francia is the registered owner of a residential lot and a two-story house built upon it situated at Barrio San Isidro, now District of Sta. Clara, Pasay City, Metro Manila. The lot, with an area of about 328 square meters, is described and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 4739 (37795) of the Registry of Deeds of Pasay City. On October 15, 1977, a 125 square meter portion of Francia's property was expropriated by the Republic of the Philippines for the sum of P4,116.00 representing the estimated amount equivalent to the assessed value of the aforesaid portion. Since 1963 up to 1977 inclusive, Francia failed to pay his real estate taxes. Thus, on December 5, 1977, his property was sold at public auction by the City Treasurer of Pasay City pursuant to Section 73 of Presidential Decree No. 464 known as the Real Property Tax Code in order to satisfy a tax 8 delinquency of P2,400.00. Ho Fernandez was the highest bidder for the property. Francia was not present during the auction sale since he was in Iligan City at that time helping his uncle ship bananas. On March 3, 1979, Francia received a notice of hearing of LRC Case No. 1593-P "In re: Petition for Entry of New Certificate of Title" filed by Ho Fernandez, seeking the cancellation of TCT No. 4739 (37795) and the issuance in his name of a new certificate of title. Upon verification through his lawyer, Francia discovered that a Final Bill of Sale had been issued in favor of Ho Fernandez by the City Treasurer on December 11, 1978. The auction sale and the final bill of sale were both annotated at the back of TCT No. 4739 (37795) by the Register of Deeds. On March 20, 1979, Francia filed a complaint to annul the auction sale. He later amended his complaint on January 24, 1980. On April 23, 1981, the lower court rendered a decision, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, judgment is hereby rendered dismissing the amended complaint and ordering: (a) The Register of Deeds of Pasay City to issue a new Transfer Certificate of Title in favor of the defendant Ho Fernandez over the parcel of land including the improvements thereon, subject to whatever encumbrances appearing at the back of TCT No. 4739 (37795) and ordering the same TCT No. 4739 (37795) cancelled. (b) The plaintiff to pay defendant Ho Fernandez the sum of P1,000.00 as attorney's fees. (p. 30, Record on Appeal) The Intermediate Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the lower court in toto. Hence, this petition for review. 9 Francia prefaced his arguments with the following assignments of grave errors of law: I RESPONDENT INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT COMMITTED A GRAVE ERROR OF LAW IN NOT HOLDING PETITIONER'S OBLIGATION TO PAY P2,400.00 FOR SUPPOSED TAX DELINQUENCY WAS SET-OFF BY THE AMOUNT OF P4,116.00 WHICH THE GOVERNMENT IS INDEBTED TO THE FORMER. II RESPONDENT INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT COMMITTED A GRAVE AND SERIOUS ERROR IN NOT HOLDING THAT PETITIONER WAS NOT PROPERLY AND DULY NOTIFIED THAT AN AUCTION SALE OF HIS PROPERTY WAS TO TAKE PLACE ON DECEMBER 5, 1977 TO SATISFY AN ALLEGED TAX DELINQUENCY OF P2,400.00. III RESPONDENT INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT FURTHER COMMITTED A SERIOUS ERROR AND GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN NOT HOLDING THAT THE PRICE OF P2,400.00 PAID BY RESPONTDENT HO FERNANDEZ WAS GROSSLY INADEQUATE AS TO SHOCK ONE'S CONSCIENCE AMOUNTING TO FRAUD AND A DEPRIVATION OF PROPERTY WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW, AND CONSEQUENTLY, THE AUCTION SALE MADE THEREOF IS VOID. (pp. 10, 17, 20-21, Rollo) We gave due course to the petition for a more thorough inquiry into the petitioner's allegations that his property was sold at public auction without notice to him and that the price paid for the property was shockingly inadequate, amounting to fraud and deprivation without due process of law. A careful review of the case, however, discloses that Mr. Francia brought the problems raised in his petition upon himself. While we commiserate with him at the loss of his property, the law and the facts militate against the grant of his petition. We are constrained to dismiss it. 10 Francia contends that his tax delinquency of P2,400.00 has been extinguished by legal compensation. He claims that the government owed him P4,116.00 when a portion of his land was expropriated on October 15, 1977. Hence, his tax obligation had been set-off by operation of law as of October 15, 1977. There is no legal basis for the contention. By legal compensation, obligations of persons, who in their own right are reciprocally debtors and creditors of each other, are extinguished (Art. 1278, Civil Code). The circumstances of the case do not satisfy the requirements provided by Article 1279, to wit: (1) that each one of the obligors be bound principally and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other; xxx xxx xxx (3) that the two debts be due. xxx xxx xxx This principal contention of the petitioner has no merit. 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. In the case of Republic v. Mambulao Lumber Co. (4 SCRA 622), this Court ruled that Internal Revenue Taxes can not be the subject of setoff or compensation. We stated that: A claim for taxes is not such a debt, demand, contract or judgment as is allowed to be set-off under the statutes of set-off, which are construed uniformly, in the light of public policy, to exclude the remedy in an action or any indebtedness of the state or municipality to one who is liable to the state or municipality for taxes. Neither are they a proper subject of recoupment since they do not arise out of the contract or transaction sued on. ... (80 C.J.S., 7374). 11 "The general rule based on grounds of public policy is well-settled that no set-off admissible against demands for taxes levied for general or local governmental purposes. The reason on which the general rule is based, is that taxes are not in the nature of contracts between the party and party but grow out of duty to, and are the positive acts of the government to th...
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