Political Law, Taxation

Sandoval Notes – Political Law Part V Constitutional Law – Power of Taxation

The Power of Taxation


  1. Can taxes be subject to off-setting or compensation?


Held: Taxes cannot be subject to compensation for the simple reason that the government and the taxpayer are not creditors and debtors of each other. There is a material distinction between a tax and debt. Debts are due to the Government in its corporate capacity, while taxes are due to the Government in its sovereign capacity. It must be noted that a distinguishing feature of a tax is that it is compulsory rather than a matter of bargain. Hence, a tax does not depend upon the consent of the taxpayer. If any taxpayer can defer the payment of taxes by raising the defense that it still has a pending claim for refund or credit, this would adversely affect the government revenue system. A taxpayer cannot refuse to pay his taxes when they fall due simply because he has a claim against the government or that the collection of a tax is contingent on the result of the lawsuit it filed against the government. (Philex Mining Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 294 SCRA 687, Aug. 28, 1998 [Romero])


  1. Under Article VI, Section 28, paragraph 3 of the 1987 Constitution, “[C]haritable institutions, churches and parsonages or convents appurtenant thereto, mosques, non-profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, and improvements, actually, directly and exclusively used for religious, charitable or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.” YMCA claims that the income earned by its building leased to private entities and that of its parking space is likewise covered by said exemption. Resolve.


Held: The debates, interpellations and expressions of opinion of the framers of the Constitution reveal their intent that which, in turn, may have guided the people in ratifying the Charter. Such intent must be effectuated.


Accordingly, Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., a former constitutional commissioner, who is now a member of this Court, stressed during the Concom debates that “x x x what is exempted is not the institution itself x x x; those exempted from real estate taxes are lands, buildings and improvements actually, directly and exclusively used for religious, charitable or educational purposes. Father Joaquin G. Bernas, an eminent authority on the Constitution and also a member of the Concom, adhered to the same view that the exemption created by said provision pertained only to property taxes.


In his treatise on taxation, Mr. Justice Jose C. Vitug concurs, stating that “[t]he tax exemption covers property taxes only.” (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. CA, 298 SCRA 83, Oct. 14, 1998 [Panganiban])


  1. Under Article XIV, Section 4, paragraph 3 of the 1987 Constitution, “[A]ll revenues and assets of non-stock, non-profit educational institutions used actually, directly, and exclusively for educational purposes shall be exempt from taxes and duties.” YMCA alleged that it “is a non-profit educational institution whose revenues and assets are used actually, directly and exclusively for educational purposes so it is exempt from taxes on its properties and income.”


Held: We reiterate that private respondent is exempt from the payment of property tax, but not income tax on the rentals from its property. The bare allegation alone that it is a non-stock, non-profit educational institution is insufficient to justify its exemption from the payment of income tax.


[L]aws allowing tax exemption are construed strictissimi juris. Hence, for the YMCA to be granted the exemption it claims under the abovecited provision, it must prove with substantial evidence that (1) it falls under the classification non-stock, non-profit educational institution; and (2) the income it seeks to be exempted from taxation is used actually, directly, and exclusively for educational purposes. However, the Court notes that not a scintilla of evidence was submitted by private respondent to prove that it met the said requisites. (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. CA, 298 SCRA 83, Oct. 14, 1998 [Panganiban])


  1. Is the YMCA an educational institution within the purview of Article XIV, Section 4, par. 3 of the Constitution?


Held: We rule that it is not. The term “educational institution” or “institution of learning” has acquired a well-known technical meaning, of which the members of the Constitutional Commission are deemed cognizant. Under the Education Act of 1982, such term refers to schools. The school system is synonymous with formal education, which “refers to the hierarchically structured and chronologically graded learnings organized and provided by the formal school system and for which certification is required in order for the learner to progress through the grades or move to the higher levels.” The Court has examined the “Amended Articles of Incorporation” and “By-Laws” of the YMCA, but found nothing in them that even hints that it is a school or an educational institution.


Furthermore, under the Education Act of 1982, even non-formal education is understood to be school-based and “private auspices such as foundations and civic-spirited organizations” are ruled out. It is settled that the term “educational institution,” when used in laws granting tax exemptions, refers to a “x x x school seminary, college or educational establishment x x x.” (84 CJS 566) Therefore, the private respondent cannot be deemed one of the educational institutions covered by the constitutional provision under consideration. (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. CA, 298 SCRA 83, Oct. 14, 1998 [Panganiban])


  1. May the PCGG validly commit to exempt from all forms of taxes the properties to be retained by the Marcos heirs in a Compromise Agreement between the former and the latter?


Held: The power to tax and to grant exemptions is vested in the Congress and, to a certain extent, in the local legislative bodies. Section 28(4), Article VI of the Constitution, specifically provides: “No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the members of the Congress.” The PCGG has absolutely no power to grant tax exemptions, even under the cover of its authority to compromise ill-gotten wealth cases.


Even granting that Congress enacts a law exempting the Marcoses from paying taxes on their properties, such law will definitely not pass the test of the equal protection clause under the Bill of Rights. Any special grant of tax exemption in favor only of the Marcos heirs will constitute class legislation. It will also violate the constitutional rule that “taxation shall be uniform and equitable.” (Chavez v. PCGG, 299 SCRA 744, Dec. 9, 1998 [Panganiban])


  1. Discuss the purpose of tax treaties?


Held: The RP-US Tax Treaty is just one of a number of bilateral treaties which the Philippines has entered into for the avoidance of double taxation. The purpose of these international agreements is to reconcile the national fiscal legislations of the contracting parties in order to help the taxpayer avoid simultaneous taxation in two different jurisdictions. More precisely, the tax conventions are drafted with a view towards the elimination of international juridical double taxation x x x. (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., 309 SCRA 87, 101-102, June 25, 1999, 3rd Div. [Gonzaga-Reyes])    


  1. What is “international juridical double taxation”?


Held: It is defined as the imposition of comparable taxes in two or more states on the same taxpayer in respect of the same subject matter and for identical periods. (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., 309 SCRA 87, 102, June 25, 1999)


  1. What is the rationale for doing away with international juridical double taxation? What are the methods resorted to by tax treaties to eliminate double taxation?


Held: The apparent rationale for doing away with double taxation is to encourage the free flow of goods and services and the movement of capital, technology and persons between countries, conditions deemed vital in creating robust and dynamic economies. Foreign investments will only thrive in a fairly predictable and reasonable international investment climate and the protection against double taxation is crucial in creating such a climate.


Double taxation usually takes place when a person is resident of a contracting state and derives income from, or owns capital in, the other contracting state and both states impose tax on that income or capital. In order to eliminate double taxation, a tax treaty resorts to several methods. First, it sets out the respective rights to tax of the state of source or situs and of the state of residence with regard to certain classes of income or capital. In some cases, an exclusive right to tax is conferred on one of the contracting states; however, for other items of income or capital, both states are given the right to tax, although the amount of tax that may be imposed by the state of source is limited.


The second method for the elimination of double taxation applies whenever the state of source is given a full or limited right to tax together with the state of residence. In this case, the treaties make it incumbent upon the state of residence to allow relief in order to avoid double taxation. There are two methods of relief – the exemption method and the credit method. In the exemption method, the income or capital which is taxable in the state of source or situs is exempted in the state of residence, although in some instances it may be taken into account in determining the rate of tax applicable to the taxpayer’s remaining income or capital. On the other hand, in the credit method, although the income or capital which is taxed in the state of source is still taxable in the state of residence, the tax paid in the former is credited against the tax levied in the latter. The basic difference between the two methods is that in the exemption method, the focus is on the income or capital itself, whereas the credit method focuses upon the tax. (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., 309 SCRA 87, 102-103, June 25, 1999)


  1. What is the rationale for reducing the tax rate in negotiating tax treaties?


Held: In negotiating tax treaties, the underlying rationale for reducing the tax rate is that the Philippines will give up a part of the tax in the expectation that the tax given up for this particular investment is not taxed by the other country. (Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., 309 SCRA 87, 103, June 25, 1999)


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