Tax on revenue; on business vs. license fee

The term "tax" applies — generally speaking — to all kinds of exactions which become public funds. The term is often loosely used to include levies for revenue as well as levies for regulatory purposes. Thus license fees are commonly called taxes. Legally speaking, however, license fee is a legal concept quite distinct from tax; the former is imposed in the exercise of police power for purposes of regulation, while the latter is imposed under the taxing power for the purpose of raising revenues (MacQuillin, Municipal Corporations, Vol. 9, 3rd Edition, p. 26).

Ordinance No. 3358 is clearly one that prescribes municipal license fees for the privilege to engage in the business of selling liquor or alcoholic beverages, having been enacted by the Municipal Board of Manila pursuant to its charter power to fix license fees on, and regulate, the sale of intoxicating liquors, whether imported or locally manufactured. (Section 18 [p], Republic Act 409, as amended). The license fees imposed by it are essentially for purposes of regulation, and are justified, considering that the sale of intoxicating liquor is, potentially at least, harmful to public health and morals, and must be subject to supervision or regulation by the state and by cities and municipalities authorized to act in the premises. (MacQuillin, supra, p. 445.)

On the other hand, it is clear that Ordinances Nos. 3634, 3301, and 3816 impose taxes on the sales of general merchandise, wholesale or retail, and are revenue measures enacted by the Municipal Board of Manila by virtue of its power to tax dealers for the sale of such merchandise. (Section 10 [o], Republic Act No. 409, as amended.).
Under Ordinance No. 3634 the word "merchandise" as employed therein clearly includes liquor. Aside from this, we have held in City of Manila vs. Inter-Island Gas Service, Inc., G.R. No. L-8799, August 31, 1956, that the word "merchandise" refers to all subjects of commerce and traffic; whatever is usually bought and sold in trade or market; goods or wares bought and sold for gain; commodities or goods to trade; and commercial commodities in general.

That Tabacalera is being subjected to double taxation is more apparent than real. As already stated what is collected under Ordinance No. 3358 is a license fee for the privilege of engaging in the sale of liquor, a calling in which — it is obvious — not anyone or anybody may freely engage, considering that the sale of liquor indiscriminately may endanger public health and morals. On the other hand, what the three ordinances mentioned heretofore impose is a tax for revenue purposes based on the sales made of the same article or merchandise. It is already settled in this connection that both a license fee and a tax may be imposed on the same business or occupation, or for selling the same article, this not being in violation of the rule against double taxation (Bentley Gray Dry Goods Co. vs. City of Tampa, 137 Fla. 641, 188 So. 758; MacQuillin, Municipal Corporations, Vol. 9, 3rd Edition, p. 83). This is precisely the case with the ordinances involved in the case at bar. (G.R. No. L-16619)