Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CIR vs. Magsaysay Lines

Facts: Pursuant to a government program of privatization, The NDC decided to sell in one lot its NMC shares and five (5) of its ships, which are 3,700 DWT Tween-Decker, "Kloeckner" type vessels.The vessels were constructed for the NDC between 1981 and 1984, then initially leased to Luzon Stevedoring Company, also its wholly-owned subsidiary. Subsequently, the vessels were transferred and leased, on a bareboat basis, to the NMC.  The NMC shares and the vessels were offered for public bidding. Among the stipulated terms and conditions for the public auction was that the winning bidder was to pay "a value added tax of 10% on the value of the vessels." On 3 June 1988, private respondent Magsaysay Lines, Inc. (Magsaysay Lines) offered to buy the shares and the vessels for P168,000,000.00. The bid was made by Magsaysay Lines, purportedly for a new company still to be formed composed of itself and was approved by the Committee on Privatization, and a Notice of Award dated 1 July 1988 was issued to Magsaysay Lines who in turn was assessed of VAT through VAT Ruling No. 568-88 dated 14 December 1988 from the BIR, holding that the sale of the vessels was subject to the 10% VAT. The ruling cited the fact that NDC was a VAT-registered enterprise, and thus its "transactions incident to its normal VAT registered activity of leasing out personal property including sale of its own assets that are movable, tangible objects which are appropriable or transferable are subject to the 10% [VAT]. 

CTA ruled that the sale of a vessel was an "isolated transaction," not done in the ordinary course of NDC’s business, and was thus not subject to VAT, which under Section 99 of the Tax Code, was applied only to sales in the course of trade or business. The CTA further held that the sale of the vessels could not be "deemed sale," and thus subject to VAT, as the transaction did not fall under the enumeration of transactions deemed sale as listed either in Section 100(b) of the Tax Code, or Section 4 of R.R. No. 5-87. Finally, the CTA ruled that any case of doubt should be resolved in favor of private respondents since Section 99 of the Tax Code which implemented VAT is not an exemption provision, but a classification provision which warranted the resolution of doubts in favor of the taxpayer. Hence CIR appealed the CTA Decision. 

Issue:Whether the sale by the National Development Company (NDC) of five (5) of its vessels to the private respondents is subject to value-added tax (VAT) under the National Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (Tax Code) then prevailing at the time of the sale. The facts are culled primarily from the ruling of the CTA. 

Held: NOT SUBJECT TO VAT. 

VAT is ultimately a tax on consumption, even though it is assessed on many levels of transactions on the basis of a fixed percentage. It is the end user of consumer goods or services which ultimately shoulders the tax, as the liability therefrom is passed on to the end users by the providers of these goods or services who in turn may credit their own VAT liability (or input VAT) from the VAT payments they receive from the final consumer (or output VAT). The final purchase by the end consumer represents the final link in a production chain that itself involves several transactions and several acts of consumption. The VAT system assures fiscal adequacy through the collection of taxes on every level of consumption, yet assuages the manufacturers or providers of goods and services by enabling them to pass on their respective VAT liabilities to the next link of the chain until finally the end consumer shoulders the entire tax liability. 

Yet VAT is not a singular-minded tax on every transactional level. Its assessment bears direct relevance to the taxpayer’s role or link in the production chain. Hence, as affirmed by Section 99 of the Tax Code and its subsequent incarnations, the tax is levied only on the sale, barter or exchange of goods or services by persons who engage in such activities, in the course of trade or business. These transactions outside the course of trade or business may invariably contribute to the production chain, but they do so only as a matter of accident or incident. As the sales of goods or services do not occur within the course of trade or business, the providers of such goods or services would hardly, if at all, have the opportunity to appropriately credit any VAT liability as against their own accumulated VAT collections since the accumulation of output VAT arises in the first place only through the ordinary course of trade or business. 

That the sale of the vessels was not in the ordinary course of trade or business of NDC was appreciated by both the CTA and the Court of Appeals, the latter doing so even in its first decision which it eventually reconsidered. We cite with approval the CTA’s explanation on this point: 

In Imperial v. Collector of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. L-7924, September 30, 1955 (97 Phil. 992), the term "carrying on business" does not mean the performance of a single disconnected act, but means conducting, prosecuting and continuing business by performing progressively all the acts normally incident thereof; while "doing business" conveys the idea of business being done, not from time to time, but all the time."Course of business" is what is usually done in the management of trade or business 

Court explained that "course of business" or "doing business" connotes regularity of activity. In the instant case, the sale was an isolated transaction. The sale which was involuntary and made pursuant to the declared policy of Government for privatization could no longer be repeated or carried on with regularity. It should be emphasized that the normal VAT-registered activity of NDC is leasing personal property. 

This finding is confirmed by the Revised Charter of the NDC which bears no indication that the NDC was created for the primary purpose of selling real property. The conclusion that the sale was not in the course of trade or business, which the CIR does not dispute before this Court, should have definitively settled the matter. Any sale, barter or exchange of goods or services not in the course of trade or business is not subject to VAT. Accordingly, the Court rules that given the undisputed finding that the transaction in question was not made in the course of trade or business of the seller, NDC that is, the sale is not subject to VAT pursuant to Section 99 of the Tax Code, no matter how the said sale may hew to those transactions deemed sale as defined under Section 100. Petition Denied.

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