PHILIPPINE BANK OF COMMUNICATIONS vs. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE G.R. No. 112024, January 28, 1999

Fact: Petitioner, Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCom), a commercial banking corporation duly organized under Philippine laws, filed its quarterly income tax returns for the first and second quarters of 1985, reported profits, and paid the total income tax of P5,016,954.00. The taxes due were settled by applying PBCom’s tax credit memos and accordingly, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) issued Tax Debit Memo Nos. 0746-85 and 0747-85 for P3,401,701.00 and P1,615,253.00, respectively. Subsequently, however, PBCom suffered losses so that when it filed its Annual Income Tax Returns for the year-ended December 31, 1986, the petitioner likewise reported a net loss of P14,129,602.00, and thus declared no tax payable for the year. But during these two years, PBCom earned rental income from leased properties. The lessees withheld and remitted to the BIR withholding creditable taxes of P282,795.50 in 1985 and P234,077.69 in 1986. On August 7, 1987, petitioner requested the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, among others, for a tax credit of P5,016,954.00 representing the overpayment of taxes in the first and second quarters of 1985. Thereafter, on July 25, 1988, petitioner filed a claim for refund of creditable taxes withheld by their lessees from property rentals in 1985 for P282,795.50 and in 1986 for P234,077.69. On May 20, 1993, the CTA rendered a decision which, as stated on the outset, denied the request of petitioner for a tax refund or credit in the sum amount of P5,299,749.95, on the ground that it was filed beyond the two-year reglementary period provided for by law. The petitioner’s claim for refund in 1986 amounting to P234,077.69 was likewise denied on the assumption that it was automatically credited by PBCom against its tax payment in the succeeding year. On June 22, 1993, petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the CTA’s decision but the same was denied due course for lack of merit. Thereafter, PBCom filed a petition for review of said decision and resolution of the CTA with the Court of Appeals. However on September 22, 1993, the Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the CTA’s resolution dated July 20, 1993. Hence this petition.

Issue: Whether the Circular issued by the BIR which is Inconsistent or Contrary to the Statutes can be enforced?

Held: No, When the Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue issued RMC, changing the prescriptive period of two years to ten years on claims of excess quarterly income tax payments, such circular created a clear inconsistency with the provision of Sec. 230 of 1977 NIRC. In so doing, the BIR did not simply interpret the law; rather it legislated guidelines contrary to the statute passed by Congress. It bears repeating that Revenue memorandum-circulars are considered administrative rulings (in the sense of more specific and less general interpretations of tax laws) which are issued from time to time by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. It is widely accepted that the interpretation placed upon a statute by the executive officers, whose duty is to enforce it, is entitled to great respect by the courts. Nevertheless, such interpretation is not conclusive and will be ignored if judicially found to be erroneous.  Thus, courts will not countenance administrative issuances that override, instead of remaining consistent and in harmony with the law they seek to apply and implement.

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