CIR vs. Magsaysay Lines – GR No. 146984, July 28, 2006

Facts:
Pursuant to a government program of privatization, NDC decided to sell to private enterprise all of its shares in its wholly-owned subsidiary the National Marine Corporation (NMC). The NDC decided to sell in one lot its NMC shares and five (5) of its ships.
The NMC shares and the vessels were offered for public bidding. On 3 June 1988, private respondent Magsaysay Lines, Inc. (Magsaysay Lines) offered to buy the shares and the vessels. The bid was made by Magsaysay Lines, purportedly for a new company still to be formed composed of itself, Baliwag Navigation, Inc., and FIM Limited of the Marden Group based in Hongkong (collectively, private respondents).
On 28 September 1988, the implementing Contract of Sale was executed between NDC, on one hand, and Magsaysay Lines, Baliwag Navigation, and FIM Limited, on the other. Paragraph 11.02 of the contract stipulated that “[v]alue-added tax, if any, shall be for the account of the PURCHASER.” By this time, a formal request for a ruling on whether or not the sale of the vessels was subject to VAT had already been filed with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) by the law firm of Sycip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan, presumably in behalf of private respondents.
In January of 1989, private respondents through counsel received VAT Ruling No. 568-88 dated 14 December 1988 from the BIR, holding that the sale of the vessels was subject to the 10% VAT. The ruling cited the fact that NDC was a VAT-registered enterprise, and thus its “transactions incident to its normal VAT registered activity of leasing out personal property including sale of its own assets that are movable, tangible objects which are appropriable or transferable are subject to the 10% [VAT].”
Private respondents moved for the reconsideration of VAT Ruling No. 568-88, as well as VAT Ruling No. 395-88 (dated 18 August 1988), which made a similar ruling on the sale of the same vessels in response to an inquiry from the Chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. Their motion was denied when the BIR issued VAT Ruling Nos. 007-89 dated 24 February 1989, reiterating the earlier VAT rulings.
On 10 April 1989, private respondents filed an Appeal and Petition for Refund with the CTA, followed by a Supplemental Petition for Review on 14 July 1989. They prayed for the reversal of VAT Rulings No. 395-88, 568-88 and 007-89, as well as the refund of the VAT payment made amounting to P15,120,000.00.8 The Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) opposed the petition.
In a Decision dated 27 April 1992, the CTA rejected the CIR’s arguments and granted the petition. The CTA ruled that the sale of a vessel was an “isolated transaction,” not done in the ordinary course of NDC’s business, and was thus not subject to VAT, which under Section 99 of the Tax Code, was applied only to sales in the course of trade or business.
The CIR appealed the CTA Decision to the Court of Appeals, which initially granted the appeal of the CIR but reversed itself and affirming the decision of the CTA.
Hence this case.

Issue:
Whether transaction of sale of a property not in the course of trade or business or “deemed sale” is Subject to VAT.

Held:
No, The conclusion that the sale was not in the course of trade or business, which the CIR does not dispute before this Court, should have definitively settled the matter. Any sale, barter or exchange of goods or services not in the course of trade or business is not subject to VAT. Accordingly, the Court rules that given the undisputed finding that the transaction in question was not made in the course of trade or business of the seller, NDC that is, the sale is not subject to VAT pursuant to Section 99 of the Tax Code, no matter how the said sale may hew to those transactions deemed sale as defined under Section 100.

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