CASE DIGEST: CIR vs. Solidbank (G.R. No. 148191; November 25, 2003)

CASE DIGEST: COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, petitioner, vs. SOLIDBANK CORPORATION, respondent. (G.R. No. 148191; November 25, 2003)

FACTS:
In 1995, Solidbank filed its Quarterly Percentage Tax Returns (QPTR) reflecting gross receipts of more than 1.4 billion pesos. Hence, it wanted to pay gross receipts tax at more than 73 million pesos.

Using ABC v. CIR, Solidbank alleged that the total gross receipts in the amount of P1,474,691,693.44 included the sum of P350,807,875.15 representing gross receipts from passive income which was already subjected to 20% final withholding tax. So, it wants to get tax refund or tax credit certification for more than 3.5 million pesos. Without waiting for an action from the CIR, Solidbank filed a petition for review with the CTA to toll the 2-year prescriptive period for judicial refund claims for overpaid internal revenue tax.

CTA ordered CIR to refund. Appeal to CA was unsuccessful.

ISSUE:
[1] Is the 20% FWT a part of the taxable gross receipts?
[2] Should accrued income form part of the GRT computation?
[3] Is earmarking the same as withholding?
[4] Is Solidbank entitled to tax refund or tax credit certification?
[5] Is there double taxation in this case?
HELD:
[1] Yes, the amount of interest income withheld in payment of the 20% FWT forms part of gross receipts in computing for the GRT on banks.

Under the Tax Code, the earnings of banks from passive income are subject to a twenty percent final withholding tax (20% FWT). This tax is withheld at source and is thus not actually and physically received by the banks, because it is paid directly to the government by the entities from which the banks derived the income. Apart from the 20% FWT, banks are also subject to a five percent gross receipts tax (5% GRT) which is imposed by the Tax Code on their gross receipts, including the passive income.

Since the 20% FWT is constructively received by the banks and forms part of their gross receipts or earnings, it follows that it is subject to the 5% GRT. After all, the amount withheld is paid to the government on their behalf, in satisfaction of their withholding taxes. That they do not actually receive the amount does not alter the fact that it is remitted for their benefit in satisfaction of their tax obligations.

Stated otherwise, the fact is that if there were no withholding tax system in place in this country, this 20 percent portion of the passive income of banks would actually be paid to the banks and then remitted by them to the government in payment of their income tax. The institution of the withholding tax system does not alter the fact that the 20 percent portion of their passive income constitutes part of their actual earnings, except that it is paid directly to the government on their behalf in satisfaction of the 20 percent final income tax due on their passive incomes.

[2] Accrual should not be confused with the concept of constructive possession or receipt as earlier discussed. Petitioner correctly points out that income that is merely accrued -- earned, but not yet received -- does not form part of the taxable gross receipts; income that has been received, albeit constructively, does

[3] Earmarking is not the same as withholding. Amounts earmarked do not form part of gross receipts, because, although delivered or received, these are by law or regulation reserved for some person other than the taxpayer. On the contrary, amounts withheld form part of gross receipts, because these are in constructive possession and not subject to any reservation, the withholding agent being merely a conduit in the collection process.

[4] No, Solidbank is not entitled to tax refund or tax credit certification. Exemptions are the exception in taxation. No exemptions are normally allowed when a GRT is imposed. It is precisely designed to maintain simplicity in the tax collection effort of the government and to assure its steady source of revenue even during an economic slump.

[5] No, there is no double taxation here. The subject matter of the FWT is the passive income generated in the form of interest on deposits and yield on deposit substitutes, while the subject matter of the GRT is the privilege of engaging in the business of banking. Also, although both taxes are national in scope because they are imposed by the same taxing authority -- the national government under the Tax Code -- and operate within the same Philippine jurisdiction for the same purpose of raising revenues, the taxing periods they affect are different. The FWT is deducted and withheld as soon as the income is earned, and is paid after every calendar quarter in which it is earned. On the other hand, the GRT is neither deducted nor withheld, but is paid only after every taxable quarter in which it is earned.

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