Friday, February 3, 2012

Excise tax; who may seek refund


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Excise taxes, which apply to articles manufactured or produced in the Philippines for domestic sale or consumption or for any other disposition and to things imported into the Philippines,9 is basically an indirect tax. While the tax is directly levied upon the manufacturer/importer upon removal of the taxable goods from its place of production or from the customs custody, the tax, in reality, is actually passed on to the end consumer as part of the transfer value or selling price of the goods, sold, bartered or exchanged.10 In early cases, we have ruled that for indirect taxes (such as valued-added tax or VAT), the proper party to question or seek a refund of the tax is the statutory taxpayer, the person on whom the tax is imposed by law and who paid the same even when he shifts the burden thereof to another.11Thus, in Contex Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue,12 we held that while it is true that petitioner corporation should not have been liable for the VAT inadvertently passed on to it by its supplier since their transaction is a zero-rated sale on the part of the supplier, the petitioner is not the proper party to claim such VAT refund. Rather, it is the petitioner’s suppliers who are the proper parties to claim the tax credit and accordingly refund the petitioner of the VAT erroneously passed on to the latter.13

In the first Silkair case14 decided on February 6, 2008, this Court categorically declared:

The proper party to question, or seek a refund of, an indirect tax is the statutory taxpayer, the person on whom the tax is imposed by law and who paid the same even if he shifts the burden thereof to another. Section 130 (A) (2) of the NIRC provides that “[u]nless otherwise specifically allowed, the return shall be filed and the excise tax paid by the manufacturer or producer before removal of domestic products from place of production.” Thus, Petron Corporation, not Silkair, is the statutory taxpayer which is entitled to claim a refund based on Section 135 of the NIRC of 1997 and Article 4(2) of the Air Transport Agreement between RP and Singapore.

Even if Petron Corporation passed on to Silkair the burden of the tax, the additional amount billed to Silkair for jet fuel is not a tax but part of the price which Silkair had to pay as a purchaser.15 (Emphasis supplied.)

Just a few months later, the decision in the second Silkair case16 was promulgated, reiterating the rule that in the refund of indirect taxes such as excise taxes, the statutory taxpayer is the proper party who can claim the refund. We also clarified that petitioner Silkair, as the purchaser and end-consumer, ultimately bears the tax burden, but this does not transform its status into a statutory taxpayer.

The person entitled to claim a tax refund is the statutory taxpayer. Section 22(N) of the NIRC defines a taxpayer as “any person subject to tax.” In Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Procter and Gamble Phil. Mfg. Corp., the Court ruled that:

A “person liable for tax” has been held to be a “person subject to tax” and properly considered a “taxpayer.” The terms “liable for tax” and “subject to tax” both connote a legal obligation or duty to pay a tax.’

The excise tax is due from the manufacturers of the petroleum products and is paid upon removal of the products from their refineries. Even before the aviation jet fuel is purchased from Petron, the excise tax is already paid by Petron. Petron, being the manufacturer, is the “person subject to tax.” In this case, Petron, which paid the excise tax upon removal of the products from its Bataan refinery, is the “person liable for tax.” Petitioner is neither a “person liable for tax” nor “a person subject to tax.” There is also no legal duty on the part of petitioner to pay the excise tax; hence, petitioner cannot be considered the taxpayer.

Even if the tax is shifted by Petron to its customers and even if the tax is billed as a separate item in the aviation delivery receipts and invoices issued to its customers, Petron remains the taxpayer because the excise tax is imposed directly on Petron as the manufacturer. Hence, Petron, as the statutory taxpayer, is the proper party that can claim the refund of the excise taxes paid to the BIR.17 (Emphasis supplied.)

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