G.R. No. 109289 October 3, 1994
RUFINO R. TAN, Petitioner, v. RAMON R. DEL ROSARIO, JR., as SECRETARY OF FINANCE & JOSE U. ONG, as COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondents.
G.R. No. 109446 October 3, 1994
CARAG, CABALLES, JAMORA AND SOMERA LAW OFFICES, CARLO A. CARAG, MANUELITO O. CABALLES, ELPIDIO C. JAMORA, JR. and BENJAMIN A. SOMERA, JR., Petitioners, v. RAMON R. DEL ROSARIO, in his capacity as SECRETARY OF FINANCE and JOSE U. ONG, in his capacity as COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondents.
Rufino R. Tan for and in his own behalf.chanrobles virtual law library
Carag, Caballes, Jamora & Zomera Law Offices for petitioners in G.R. 109446.
These two consolidated special civil actions for prohibition challenge, in G.R. No. 109289, the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 7496, also commonly known as the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme ("SNIT"), amending certain provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code and, in
Petitioners claim to be taxpayers adversely affected by the continued implementation of the amendatory legislation.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
In G.R. No. 109289, it is asserted that the enactment of Republic Act
In G.R. No. 109446, petitioners, assailing Section 6 of Revenue Regulations No. 2-93, argue that public respondents have exceeded their rule-making authority in applying SNIT to general professional partnerships.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
The Solicitor General espouses the position taken by public respondents.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
The Court has given due course to both petitions. The parties, in compliance with the Court's directive, have filed their respective memoranda.
G.R. No. 109289
Petitioner contends that the title of House Bill No. 34314, progenitor of Republic Act No. 7496, is a misnomer or, at least, deficient for being merely entitled, "Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme for the Self-Employed
The full text of the title actually reads:
The pertinent provisions of Sections 21 and 29, so referred to, of the National Internal Revenue Code, as now amended, provide:
On the basis of the above language of the law, it would be difficult to accept petitioner's view that the amendatory law should be considered as having now adopted a gross income, instead of as having still retained the net income, taxation scheme. The allowance for deductible items, it is true, may have significantly been reduced by the questioned law in comparison with that which has prevailed prior to the amendment; limiting, however, allowable deductions from gross income is neither discordant with, nor opposed to, the net income tax concept. The fact of the matter is still that various deductions, which are by no means inconsequential, continue to be well provided under the new law.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Article VI, Section 26(1), of the Constitution has been envisioned so as (a) to prevent log-rolling legislation intended to unite the members of the legislature who favor any one of unrelated subjects in support of the whole act, (b) to avoid surprises or even fraud upon the legislature, and (c) to fairly apprise the people, through such publications of its proceedings as are usually made, of the subjects of legislation. 1The above objectives of the fundamental law appear to us to have been sufficiently met. Anything else would be to require a virtual compendium of the law which could not have been the intendment of the constitutional mandate.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Petitioner intimates that Republic Act No. 7496 desecrates the constitutional requirement that taxation "shall be uniform and equitable" in that the law would now attempt to tax single proprietorships and professionals differently from the manner it imposes the tax on corporations and partnerships. The contention clearly forgets, however, that such a system of income taxation has long been the prevailing rule even prior to Republic Act No. 7496.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Uniformity of taxation, like the kindred concept of equal protection, merely requires that all subjects or objects of taxation, similarly situated, are to be treated alike both in privileges and liabilities (Juan Luna Subdivision vs. Sarmiento, 91 Phil. 371). Uniformity does not forfend classification as long as: (1) the standards that are used therefor are substantial and not arbitrary, (2) the categorization is germane to achieve the legislative purpose, (3) the law applies, all things being equal, to both present and future conditions, and (4) the classification applies equally well to all those belonging to the same class (Pepsi Cola vs. City of Butuan, 24 SCRA 3; Basco vs. PAGCOR, 197 SCRA 52).chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
What may instead be perceived to be apparent from the amendatory law is the legislative intent to increasingly shift the income tax system towards the schedular approach 2 in the income taxation of individual taxpayers and to maintain, by and large, the present global treatment 3 on taxable corporations. We certainly do not view this classification to be arbitrary and inappropriate.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Petitioner gives a fairly extensive discussion on the merits of the law, illustrating, in the process, what he believes to be an imbalance between the tax liabilities of those covered by the amendatory law and those who are not. With the legislature primarily lies the discretion to determine the nature (kind), object (purpose), extent (rate), coverage (subjects) and situs (place) of taxation. This court cannot freely delve into those matters which, by constitutional fiat, rightly rest on legislative judgment. Of course, where a tax measure becomes so unconscionable and unjust as to amount to confiscation of property, courts will not hesitate to strike it down, for, despite all its plenitude, the power to tax cannot override constitutional proscriptions. This stage, however, has not been demonstrated to have been reached within any appreciable distance in this controversy before us.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Having arrived at this conclusion, the plea of petitioner to have the law declared unconstitutional for being violative of due process must perforce fail. The due process clause may correctly be invoked only when there is a clear contravention of inherent or constitutional limitations in the exercise of the tax power. No such transgression is so evident to us.
The several propositions advanced by petitioners revolve around the question of whether or not public respondents have exceeded their authority in promulgating Section 6, Revenue Regulations No. 2-93, to carry out Republic Act No. 7496.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
The questioned regulation reads:
The real objection of petitioners is focused on the administrative interpretation of public respondents that would apply SNIT to partners in general professional partnerships. Petitioners cite the pertinent deliberations in Congress during its enactment of Republic Act No. 7496, also quoted by the Honorable Hernando B. Perez, minority floor leader of the House of Representatives, in the latter's privilege speech by way of commenting on the questioned implementing regulation of public respondents following the effectivity of the law, thusly:
The Court, first of all, should like to correct the apparent misconception that general professional partnerships are subject to the payment of income tax or that there is a difference in the tax treatment between individuals engaged in business or in the practice of their respective professions and partners in general professional partnerships. The fact of the matter is that a general professional partnership, unlike an ordinary business partnership (which is treated as a corporation for income tax purposes and so subject to the corporate income tax), is not itself an income taxpayer. The income tax is imposed not on the professional partnership, which is tax exempt, but on the partners themselves in their individual capacity computed on their distributive shares of partnership profits. Section 23 of the Tax Code, which has not been amended at all by Republic Act 7496, is explicit:
There is, then and now, no distinction in income tax liability between a person who practices his profession alone or individually and one who does it through partnership (whether registered or not) with others in the exercise of a common profession. Indeed, outside of the gross compensation income tax and the final tax on passive investment income, under the present income tax system all individuals deriving income from any source whatsoever are treated in almost invariably the same manner and under a common set of rules.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
We can well appreciate the concern taken by petitioners if perhaps we were to consider Republic Act No. 7496 as an entirely independent, not merely as an amendatory, piece of legislation. The view can easily become myopic, however, when the law is understood, as it should be, as only forming part of, and subject to, the whole income tax concept and precepts long obtaining under the National Internal Revenue Code. To elaborate a little, the phrase "income taxpayers" is an all embracing term used in the Tax Code, and it practically covers all persons who derive taxable income. The law, in levying the tax, adopts the most comprehensive tax situs of nationality and residence of the taxpayer (that renders citizens, regardless of residence, and resident aliens subject to income tax liability on their income from all sources) and of the generally accepted and internationally recognized income taxable base (that can subject non-resident aliens and foreign corporations to income tax on their income from Philippine sources). In the process, the Code classifies taxpayers into four main groups, namely: (1) Individuals, (2) Corporations, (3) Estates under Judicial Settlement and (4) Irrevocable Trusts (irrevocable both as to corpus and as to income).chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Partnerships are, under the Code, either "taxable partnerships" or "exempt partnerships." Ordinarily, partnerships, no matter how created or organized, are subject to income tax (and thus alluded to as "taxable partnerships") which, for purposes of the above categorization, are by law assimilated to be within the context of, and so legally contemplated as, corporations. Except for few variances, such as in the application of the "constructive receipt rule" in the derivation of income, the income tax approach is alike to both juridical persons. Obviously, SNIT is not intended or envisioned, as so correctly pointed out in the discussions in Congress during its deliberations on Republic Act 7496, aforequoted, to cover corporations and partnerships which are independently subject to the payment of income tax.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
"Exempt partnerships," upon the other hand, are not similarly identified as corporations nor even considered as independent taxable entities for income tax purposes. A general professional partnership is such an example. 4 Here, the partners themselves, not the partnership (although it is still obligated to file an income tax return [mainly for administration and data]), are liable for the payment of income tax in their individual capacity computed on their respective and distributive shares of profits. In the determination of the tax liability, a partner does so as an individual, and there is no choice on the matter. In fine, under the Tax Code on income taxation, the general professional partnership is deemed to be no more than a mere mechanism or a flow-through entity in the generation of income by, and the ultimate distribution of such income to, respectively, each of the individual partners.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Section 6 of Revenue Regulation No. 2-93 did not alter, but merely confirmed, the above standing rule as now so modified by Republic Act
WHEREFORE, the petitions are DISMISSED. No special pronouncement on costs.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Narvasa, C.J., Cruz, Feliciano, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Kapunan and Mendoza, JJ., concur.chanroblesvirtualawlibrarychanrobles virtual law library
Padilla and Bidin, JJ., are on leave.
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