Petitioner Panasonic Communications Imaging Corporation of the Philippines (Panasonic) produces and exports plain paper copiers and their sub-assemblies, parts, and components. It is registered with the Board of Investments as a preferred pioneer enterprise under the Omnibus Investments Code of 1987. It is also a registered VAT enterprise.
From April 1 to September 30, 1998 and from October 1, 1998 to March 31, 1999, petitioner Panasonic generated export sales for a total of US$24,678,964.93. Believing that these export sales were zero-rated for VAT under Section 106(A)(2)(a)(1) of the NIRC, Panasonic paid a total of P9,368,482.40 input VAT attributable to its zero-rated sales.
Claiming that the input VAT it paid remained unutilized or unapplied, on March 12, 1999 and July 20, 1999 petitioner Panasonic filed with the BIR two separate applications for refund or tax credit of what it paid. When the BIR did not act on the same, Panasonic filed on December 16, 1999 a petition for review with the CTA, averring the inaction of the respondent CIR on its applications.
The petition was denied for lack of merit.
Whether or not the CTA en banc correctly denied petitioner Panasonics claim for refund of the VAT it paid as a zero-rated taxpayer on the ground that its sales invoices did not state on their faces that its sales were zero-rated.
The VAT is a tax on consumption, an indirect tax that the provider of goods or services may pass on to his customers. Under the VAT method of taxation, which is invoice-based, an entity can subtract from the VAT charged on its sales or outputs the VAT it paid on its purchases, inputs and imports.
For example, when a seller charges VAT on its sale, it issues an invoice to the buyer, indicating the amount of VAT he charged. For his part, if the buyer is also a seller subjected to the payment of VAT on his sales, he can use the invoice issued to him by his supplier to get a reduction of his own VAT liability. The difference in tax shown on invoices passed and invoices received is the tax paid to the government. In case the tax on invoices received exceeds that on invoices passed, a tax refund may be claimed.
Under the NIRC, if at the end of a taxable quarter the seller charges output taxes equal to the input taxes that his suppliers passed on to him, no payment is required of him. It is when his output taxes exceed his input taxes that he has to pay the excess to the BIR. If the input taxes exceed the output taxes, however, the excess payment shall be carried over to the succeeding quarter or quarters. Should the input taxes result from zero-rated or effectively zero-rated transactions or from the acquisition of capital goods, any excess over the output taxes shall instead be refunded to the taxpayer.
Zero-rated transactions generally refer to the export sale of goods and services. The tax rate in this case is set at zero. When applied to the tax base or the selling price of the goods or services sold, such zero rate results in no tax chargeable against the foreign buyer or customer. But, although the seller in such transactions charges no output tax, he can claim a refund of the VAT that his suppliers charged him. The seller thus enjoys automatic zero rating, which allows him to recover the input taxes he paid relating to the export sales, making him internationally competitive.
For the effective zero rating of such transactions, however, the taxpayer has to be VAT-registered and must comply with invoicing requirements. Interpreting these requirements, respondent CIR ruled that under Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) 42-2003, the taxpayers failure to comply with invoicing requirements will result in the disallowance of his claim for refund. RMC 42-2003 provides:
A-13. Failure by the supplier to comply with the invoicing requirements on the documents supporting the sale of goods and services will result to the disallowance of the claim for input tax by the purchaser-claimant.
If the claim for refund/TCC is based on the existence of zero-rated sales by the taxpayer but it fails to comply with the invoicing requirements in the issuance of sales invoices (e.g., failure to indicate the TIN), its claim for tax credit/refund of VAT on its purchases shall be denied considering that the invoice it is issuing to its customers does not depict its being a VAT-registered taxpayer whose sales are classified as zero-rated sales. Nonetheless, this treatment is without prejudice to the right of the taxpayer to charge the input taxes to the appropriate expense account or asset account subject to depreciation, whichever is applicable. Moreover, the case shall be referred by the processing office to the concerned BIR office for verification of other tax liabilities of the taxpayer.
Petitioner Panasonic points out that Sections 113 and 237 did not require the inclusion of the word zero-rated for zero-rated sales covered by its receipts or invoices.
But when petitioner Panasonic made the export sales subject of this case, i.e., from April 1998 to March 1999, the rule that applied was Section 4.108-1 of RR 7-95, otherwise known as the Consolidated Value-Added Tax Regulations, which the Secretary of Finance issued on December 9, 1995 and took effect on January 1, 1996. It already required the printing of the word zero-rated on the invoices covering zero-rated sales. When R.A. 9337 amended the 1997 NIRC on November 1, 2005, it made this particular revenue regulation a part of the tax code. This conversion from regulation to law did not diminish the binding force of such regulation with respect to acts committed prior to the enactment of that law.
The requirement is reasonable and is in accord with the efficient collection of VAT from the covered sales of goods and services. As aptly explained by the CTAs First Division, the appearance of the word zero-rated on the face of invoices covering zero-rated sales prevents buyers from falsely claiming input VAT from their purchases when no VAT was actually paid. If, absent such word, a successful claim for input VAT is made, the government would be refunding money it did not collect.
Further, the printing of the word zero-rated on the invoice helps segregate sales that are subject to 10% (now 12%) VAT from those sales that are zero-rated.
Unable to submit the proper invoices, petitioner Panasonic has been unable to substantiate its claim for refund.
Besides, statutes that grant tax exemptions are construed strictissimi juris against the taxpayer and liberally in favor of the taxing authority. Tax refunds in relation to the VAT are in the nature of such exemptions. The general rule is that claimants of tax refunds bear the burden of proving the factual basis of their claims. Taxes are the lifeblood of the nation. Therefore, statutes that allow exemptions are construed strictly against the grantee and liberally in favor of the government.