Tuesday, March 20, 2012

CIR vs. Gotamco and Sons, et.al. [G.R. No. L-31092 February 27, 1987]

Facts: The World Health Organization (WHO for short) is an international organization which has a regional office in Manila. As an international organization, it enjoys privileges and immunities which are defined more specifically in the Host Agreement entered into between the Republic of the Philippines and the said Organization on July 22, 1951. Section 11 of that Agreement provides, inter alia, that "the Organization, its assets, income and other properties shall be: (a) exempt from all direct and indirect taxes. It is understood, however, that the Organization will not claim exemption from taxes which are, in fact, no more than charges for public utility services. 

When the WHO decided to construct a building to house its own offices, as well as the other United Nations offices stationed in Manila, it entered into a further agreement with the Govermment of the Republic of the Philippines on November 26, 1957. This agreement contained the following provision (Article III, paragraph 2): The Organization may import into the country materials and fixtures required for the construction free from all duties and taxes and agrees not to utilize any portion of the international reserves of the Government. 

In inviting bids for the construction of the building, the WHO informed the bidders that the building to be constructed belonged to an international organization with diplomatic status and thus exempt from the payment of all fees, licenses, and taxes, and that therefore their bids "must take this into account and should not include items for such taxes, licenses and other payments to Government agencies." The construction contract was awarded to respondent John Gotamco & Sons, Inc. 

Sometime in May 1958, the WHO received an opinion from the Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue stating that "as the 3% contractor's tax is an indirect tax on the assets and income of the Organization, the gross receipts derived by contractors from their contracts with the WHO for the construction of its new building, are exempt from tax in accordance with . . . the Host Agreement." Subsequently, however, on June 3, 1958, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue reversed his opinion and stated that "as the 3% contractor's tax is not a direct nor an indirect tax on the WHO, but a tax that is primarily due from the contractor, the same is not covered by . . . the Host Agreement." 

Issue: Whether or not respondent John Gotamco & Sons, Inc. should pay the 3% contractor's tax under Section 191 of the National Internal Revenue Code on the gross receipts it realized from the construction of the World Health Organization office building in Manila 

Held: NO. In context, direct taxes are those that are demanded from the very person who, it is intended or desired, should pay them; while indirect taxes are those that are demanded in the first instance from one person in the expectation and intention that he can shift the burden to someone else. (Pollock vs. Farmers, L & T Co., 1957 US 429, 15 S. Ct. 673, 39 Law. Ed. 759.) The contractor's tax is of course payable by the contractor but in the last analysis it is the owner of the building that shoulders the burden of the tax because the same is shifted by the contractor to the owner as a matter of self-preservation. Thus, it is an indirect tax. And it is an indirect tax on the WHO because, although it is payable by the petitioner, the latter can shift its burden on the WHO. In the last analysis it is the WHO that will pay the tax indirectly through the contractor and it certainly cannot be said that 'this tax has no bearing upon the World Health Organization.

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