Thursday, April 12, 2012

Time to appeal a tax case - G.R. No. 171251

G.R. No. 171251

"x x x.

 As early as the case of CIR v. Villa,[15] it was already established that the word "decisions" in paragraph 1, Section 7 of Republic Act No. 1125, quoted above, has been interpreted to mean the decisions of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue on the protestof the taxpayer against the assessments.  Definitely, said word does not signify the assessment itself. We quote what this Court said aptly in a previous case:

In the first place, we believe the respondent court erred in holding that the assessment in question is the respondent Collector's decision or ruling appealable to it, and that consequently, the period of thirty days prescribed by section 11 of Republic Act No. 1125 within which petitioner should have appealed to the respondent court must be counted from its receipt of said assessment. Where a taxpayer questions an assessment and asks the Collector to reconsider or cancel the same because he (the taxpayer) believes he is not liable therefor, the assessment becomes a "disputed assessment" that the Collector must decide, and the taxpayer can appeal to the Court of Tax Appeals only upon receipt of the decision of the Collector on the disputed assessment, . . . [16]

          Therefore, as in Section 228, when the law provided for the remedy to appeal the inaction of the CIR, it did not intend to limit it to a single remedy of filing of an appeal after the lapse of the 180-day prescribed period. Precisely, when a taxpayer protested an assessment, he naturally expects the CIR to decide either positively or negatively. A taxpayer cannot be prejudiced if he chooses to wait for the final decision of the CIR on the protested assessment. More so, because the law and jurisprudence have always contemplated a scenario where the CIR will decide on the protested assessment. 

          It must be emphasized, however, that in case of the inaction of the CIR on the protested assessment, while we reiterate − the taxpayer has two options, either: (1) file a petition for review with the CTA within 30 days after the expiration of the 180-day period; or (2) await the final decision of the Commissioner on the disputed assessment and appeal such final decision to the CTA within 30 days after the receipt of a copy of such decision, these options are mutually exclusive and resort to one bars the application of the other.

          Accordingly, considering that Lascona opted to await the final decision of the Commissioner on the protested assessment, it then has the right to appeal such final decision to the Court by filing a petition for review within thirty days after receipt of a copy of such decision or ruling, even after the expiration of the 180-day period fixed by law for the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to act on the disputed assessments.[17]Thus, Lascona, when it filed an appeal on April 12, 1999 before the CTA, after its receipt of the Letter[18] dated March 3, 1999 on March 12, 1999, the appeal was timely made as it was filed within 30 days after receipt of the copy of the decision.

          Finally, the CIR should be reminded that taxpayers cannot be left in quandary by its inaction on the protested assessment.  It is imperative that the taxpayers are informed of its action in order that the taxpayer should then at least be able to take recourse to the tax court at the opportune time. As correctly pointed out by the tax court:

x x x to adopt the interpretation of the respondent will not only sanction inefficiency, but will likewise condone the Bureau's inaction. This is especially true in the instant case when despite the fact that respondent found petitioner's arguments to be in order, the assessment will become final, executory and demandable for petitioner's failure to appeal before us within the thirty (30) day period.[19]

          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.[20] Thus, 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.[21]

x x x."