Tax credit benefit deemed just compensation

Sections 2.i and 4 of RR 2-94 deny the exercise by the State of its power of eminent domain. Be it stressed that the privilege enjoyed by senior citizens does not come directly from the State, but rather from the private establishments concerned. Accordingly, the tax credit benefit granted to these establishments can be deemed as their just compensation for private property taken by the State for public use.

The concept of public use is no longer confined to the traditional notion of use by the public, but held synonymous with public interest, public benefit, public welfare, and public convenience. The discount privilege to which our senior citizens are entitled is actually a benefit enjoyed by the general public to which these citizens belong. The discounts given would have entered the coffers and formed part of the gross sales of the private establishments concerned, were it not for RA 7432. The permanent reduction in their total revenues is a forced subsidy corresponding to the taking of private property for public use or benefit.

As a result of the 20 percent discount imposed by RA 7432, respondent becomes entitled to a just compensation. This term refers not only to the issuance of a tax credit certificate indicating the correct amount of the discounts given, but also to the promptness in its release. Equivalent to the payment of property taken by the State, such issuance -- when not done within a reasonable time from the grant of the discounts -- cannot be considered as just compensation. In effect, respondent is made to suffer the consequences of being immediately deprived of its revenues while awaiting actual receipt, through the certificate, of the equivalent amount it needs to cope with the reduction in its revenues.
Besides, the taxation power can also be used as an implement for the exercise of the power of eminent domain. Tax measures are but enforced contributions exacted on pain of penal sanctions and clearly imposed for a public purpose. In recent years, the power to tax has indeed become a most effective tool to realize social justice, public welfare, and the equitable distribution of wealth.

While it is a declared commitment under Section 1 of RA 7432, social justice cannot be invoked to trample on the rights of property owners who under our Constitution and laws are also entitled to protection. The social justice consecrated in our [C]onstitution [is] not intended to take away rights from a person and give them to another who is not entitled thereto. For this reason, a just compensation for income that is taken away from respondent becomes necessary. It is in the tax credit that our legislators find support to realize social justice, and no administrative body can alter that fact.

To put it differently, a private establishment that merely breaks even -- without the discounts yet -- will surely start to incur losses because of such discounts. The same effect is expected if its mark-up is less than 20 percent, and if all its sales come from retail purchases by senior citizens. Aside from the observation we have already raised earlier, it will also be grossly unfair to an establishment if the discounts will be treated merely as deductions from either its gross income or its gross sales. Operating at a loss through no fault of its own, it will realize that the tax credit limitation under RR 2-94 is inutile, if not improper. Worse, profit-generating businesses will be put in a better position if they avail themselves of tax credits denied those that are losing, because no taxes are due from the latter.