CASE DIGEST: UPSI-MI vs. CIR (G.R. No. 205955; March 7, 2018)


PRINCIPLE: When a corporation overpays its income tax liability as adjusted at the close of the taxable year, it has two options: (1) to be refunded or issued a tax credit certificate, or (2) to carry over such overpayment to the succeeding taxable quarters to be applied as tax credit against income tax due. Once the carry-over option is taken, it becomes irrevocable such that the taxpayer cannot later on change its mind in order to claim a cash refund or the issuance of a tax credit certificate of the very same amount of overpayment or excess m. come tax credit.

GENERAL ISSUE: Does the irrevocability rule apply exclusively to the carry-over option?

FACTS: UPSI-MI had, as of 31 December 2005, an outstanding amount of ₱2,331, 102.00 in excess and unutilized creditable withholding taxes.

For the subsequent taxable year ending 31 December 2006, the total sum of creditable taxes withheld on the management fees of UPSI-MI was ₱2,927,834.00. Per its 2006 Annual Income Tax Return (ITR), UPSI-MI's income tax due amounted to ₱99,105.00. UPSI-MI applied its "Prior Year's Excess Credits" of ₱2,331, 102.00 as tax credit against such 2006 Income Tax due, leaving a balance of ₱2,231,507.00 of still unutilized excess creditable tax. Meanwhile, the creditable taxes withheld for the year 2006 (₱2,927,834.00) remained intact and unutilized. In said 2006 Annual ITR, UPSI-MI chose the option "To be issued a tax credit certificate" with respect to the amount ₱2,927,834.00, representing unutilized excess creditable taxes for the taxable year ending 31 December 2006.

In the following year, UPSI-MI changed its taxable period from calendar year to fiscal year ending on the last day of March. Thus, it filed on 14 November 2007 an Annual ITR covering the short period from January 1 to March 31 of 2007. In the original 2007 Annual ITR, UPSI-MI opted to carry over as "Prior Year's Excess Credits" the total amount of ₱5,159,341.00 which included the 2006 unutilized creditable withholding tax of ₱2,927,834.00. UPSI-MI amended the return by excluding the sum of ₱2,927,834.00 under the line "Prior Year's Excess Credits" which amount is the subject of the refund claim.
ISSUE: May UPSI-MI still be entitled to the refund of its 2006 excess tax credits in the amount of ₱2,927,834.00 when it thereafter filed its income tax return (for the short period ending 31 March 2007) indicating the option of carry-over.

HELD: Under Philippine tax laws, there are two options available to a corporation whenever it overpays its income tax for the taxable year: (1) to carry over and apply the overpayment as tax credit against the estimated quarterly income tax liabilities of the succeeding taxable years (also known as automatic tax credit) until fully utilized (meaning, there is no prescriptive period); and (2) to apply for a cash refund or issuance of a tax credit certificate within the prescribed period. Such overpayment of income tax is usually occasioned by the over-withholding of taxes on the income payments to the corporate taxpayer.

The law does not prevent a taxpayer who originally opted for a refund or tax credit certificate from shifting to the carry-over of the excess creditable taxes to the taxable quarters of the succeeding taxable years. However, in case the taxpayer decides to shift its option to carryover, it may no longer revert to its original choice due to the irrevocability rule. As Section 76 unequivocally provides, once the option to carry over has been made, it shall be irrevocable. Furthermore, the provision seems to suggest that there are no qualifications or conditions attached to the rule on irrevocability.

Law and jurisprudence unequivocally support the view that only the option of carry-over is irrevocable.

Applying the foregoing precepts to the given case, UPSI-MI is barred from recovering its excess creditable tax through refund or TCC. It is undisputed that despite its initial option to refund its 2006 excess creditable tax, UPSI-MI subsequently indicated in its 2007 short-period FAR that it carried over the 2006 excess creditable tax and applied the same against its 2007 income tax due. The CTA was correct in considering UPSI-MI to have constructively chosen the option of carry-over, for which reason, the irrevocability rule forbade it to revert to its initial choice. It does not matter that UPSI-Ml had not actually benefited from the carry-over on the ground that it did not have a tax due in its 2007 short period. Neither may it insist that the insertion of the carry-over in the 2007 FAR was by mere mistake or inadvertence. As we previously laid down, the irrevocability rule admits of no qualifications or conditions.

In sum, the UPSI-MI is clearly mistaken in its view that the irrevocability rule also applies to the option of refund or tax credit certificate. In view of the court's finding that it constructively chose the option of carry-over, it is already barred from recovering its 2006 excess creditable tax through refund or TCC even if it was its initial choice.