Uniformity of taxation

Article VI, Section 28(1) of the 1987 Constitution mandates that the rule of taxation shall be uniform and equitable. Congress shall evolve a progressive system of taxation. But, what does uniformity mean? According to the Supreme Court, "all taxable articles or properties of the same class shall be taxed at the same rate." (G.R. No. L-24756. Oct 31, 1968)

Uniformity of operation throughout the tax unit. The rule requires the uniform application and operation, without discrimination, of the tax in every place where the subject of it is found. This means, for example, that a tax for a national purpose must be uniform and equal throughout the country and a tax for a province, city, municipality, or barangay must be uniform and equal throughout the province, city, municipality or barangay.

One requirement with respect to taxation imposed by provisions relating to equality and uniformity, which has been introduced into some state constitutions in express language, is that taxation must be uniform throughout the political unit by or with respect to which the tax is levied. This means, for example, that a tax for a state purpose must be uniform and equal throughout the state, a tax for a county purpose must be uniform and equal throughout the county, and a tax for a city, village, or township purpose must be uniform and equal throughout the city, village, or township. It does not mean, however, that the taxes levied by or with respect to the various political subdivisions or taxing districts of the state must be at the same rate, or, as one court has graphically put it, that a man in one county shall pay the same rate of taxation for all purposes that is paid by a man in an adjoining county. Nor does the rule require that taxes for the same purposes shall be imposed in different territorial subdivisions at the same time. It has also been said in this connection that the omission to tax any particular individual who may be liable does not render the whole tax illegal or void. (153. Am. Jur. 203, cited in G.R. No. L-26521)

Equality in burden. Uniformity implies equality in burden, not equality in amount or equality in its strict and literal meaning. The reason is simple enough.  If legislation imposes a single tax upon all persons, properties, or transactions, an inequality would obviously result considering that not all persons, properties, and transactions are identical or similarly situated. Neither does uniformity demand that taxes shall be proportional to the relative value or amount of the subject thereof.  Taxes may be progressive.

84 C.J.S. 77: "Equality in taxation is accomplished when the burden of the tax falls equally and impartially on all the persons and property subject to it [State ex rel. Haggart v. Nichols, 265 N.W. 859, 66 N.D. 355], so that no higher rate or greater levy in proportion to value is imposed on one person or species of property than on others similarly situated or of like character." (Cited in G.R. No. L-26521)

84 C.J.S. 79: "The rule of uniformity in taxation applies to property of like kind and character and similarly situated, and a tax, in order to be uniform, must operate alike on all persons, things, or property, similarly situated. So the requirement is complied with when the tax is levied equally and uniformly on all subjects of the same class and kind and is violated if particular kinds, species or items of property are selected to bear the whole burden of the tax, while others, which should be equally subjected to it, are left untaxed." (Cited in G.R. No. L-26521)

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