SC junks MRs on denial of SALN requests

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 26 2014 04:03 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2014 12:03 AM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares on the denial of her request for copies of the 2003-2012 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of all incumbent justices of the high court, the Court of Appeals (CA), and the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).

In a resolution issued today, the high court said that "the powers bestowed on the CIR (Commissioner of Internal Revenue) are not absolute."

In her requests, Henares stated that she was asking for the copies of the SALNs for tax investigation purposes.

The high court cited several limiting provisions of the tax code to stress its point.

"[T]he Tax Code limits the authority of the CIR by providing prescriptive limits on the power to assess and collect taxes; under section 203 of the Tax Code, a three-year limit is imposed for the assessment of internal revenue taxes. Section 222 of the Tax Code extends the period to assess deficiency taxes to 10 years in cases when there is a false or fraudulent return with intent to evade tax, or the non-filing of a tax return.

"In this light, the court noted that the CIR exceeded its authority to investigate and examine the tax liabilities of the members of the [SC], the CA and the CTA by requesting for certified copies of their SALNs," the SC said.

The high court also stressed that Henares failed to specify who she seeks to investigate, and failed to notify those whom she is supposedly investigating for tax fraud.

"[T]he court found it incredulous that the CIR seems to imply that all justices of the SC, the CA and the CTA are being investigated for tax fraud," the SC pointed out.

The high court said Henares did not specify "the facts and the law on which she based her finding of fraud, to justify the application of the 10-year prescriptive period."

The Tax Code, particularly section 5(B), which grants the CIR the authority to determine the correctness of an income tax return as well as the liability of a taxpayer for any tax fraud, "should never be construed to authorize the conduct of a fishing expedition to hunt for any supposed tax liability," the SC said.

It was also pointed out that Henares was selective in her requests for SALNs, that she did not seek copies of the SALNs of the justices of the Sandiganbayan or the first level courts, and only requested for the SALNs of magistrates in the three tribunals where the BIR has pending cases.

The SC has repeatedly said it is not withholding information on the SALNs of its magistrates for as long as a reasonable and sufficient reason is given by the requestor, and all requirements complied with.