Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) was created by virtue of Republic Act 6958. Since the time of its creation, MCIAA enjoyed the privilege of exemption from payment of realty taxes in accordance with Section 14 of its Charter. However on 11 October 1994, the Office of the Treasurer of Cebu, demanded for the payment of realty taxes on several parcels of land belonging to the petitioner.
Petitioner objected to such demand for payment as baseless and unjustified and asserted that it is an instrumentality of the government performing governmental functions, which puts limitations on the taxing powers of local government units.
The City refused to cancel and set aside petitioner’s realty tax account, insisting that the MCIAA is a government controlled corporation whose tax exemption privilege has been withdrawn by virtue of Sections 193 and 234 of the Local Government Code (LGC), and not an instrumentality of the government but merely a government owned corporation performing proprietary functions. MCIAA paid its tax account “under protest” when City is about to issue a warrant of levy against the MCIAA’s properties.
MCIAA filed a Petition of Declaratory Relief with the RTC contending that the taxing power of local government units do not extend to the levy of taxes or fees on an instrumentality of the national government. It contends that by the nature of its powers and functions, it has the footing of an agency or instrumentality of the national government; which claim the City rejects. The trial court dismissed the petition, citing that close reading of the LGC provides the express cancellation and withdrawal of tax exemptions of Government Owned and Controlled Corporations.
ISSUE: Whether the MCIAA is exempted from realty taxes.
Tax statutes are construed strictly against the government and liberally in favor of the taxpayer. But since taxes are paid for civilized society, or are the lifeblood of the nation, the law frowns against exemptions from taxation and statutes granting tax exemptions are thus construed strictissimi juris against the taxpayer and liberally in favor of the taxing authority.
A claim of exemption from tax payments must be clearly shown and based on language in the law too plain to be mistaken. Taxation is the rule, exemption therefrom is the exception. However, if the grantee of the exemption is a political subdivision or instrumentality, the rigid rule of construction does not apply because the practical effect of the exemption is merely to reduce the amount of money that has to be handled by the government in the course of its operations.
Further, since taxation is the rule and exemption therefrom the exception, the exemption may be withdrawn at the pleasure of the taxing authority. The only exception to this rule is where the exemption was granted to private parties based on material consideration of a mutual nature, which then becomes contractual and is thus covered by the non-impairment clause of the Constitution.
MCIAA is a “taxable person” under its Charter (RA 6958), and was only exempted from the payment of real property taxes. The grant of the privilege only in respect of this tax is conclusive proof of the legislative intent to make it a taxable person subject to all taxes, except real property tax.
Since Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code (LGC) expressly provides that “All general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees [sic], executive orders, proclamations and administrative regulations, or part of parts thereof which are inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Code are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.”
With that repealing clause in the LGC, the tax exemption provided for in RA 6958 had been expressly repealed by the provisions of the LGC. Therefore, MCIAA has to pay the assessed realty tax of its properties effective after January 1, 1992 until the present.