BIR bares Sereno's tax deficiency

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 27 2018 07:09 PM | Updated as of Oct 15 2018 10:17 PM

MANILA - The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Tuesday said it has found that Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno “failed to pay all the appropriate taxes” arising from her income prior to joining the judiciary.

Both Sereno and the complainant in the impeachment case against her, Lorenzo Gadon, erred in the income they stated Sereno had earned, said BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa.

Gadon claimed Sereno made P37 million or over $700,000 as a government lawyer with the Office of the Solicitor General in the case against the Philippine International Air Terminals Company Inc (Piatco), builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. 

Sereno had told the House justice committee, which handled the impeachment complaint against her, that she only earned P30 million.

The BIR said legal fees earned by Sereno from the PIATCO case amounted to $625,179.68 or P32.5 million.

The agency said Sereno substantially declared all income and legal fees from the PIATCO case in her income tax returns (ITRs) from 2004 to 2009 but that there were certain discrepancies.

"I would say if we sum it all [up], the estimated basic tax deficiency is amounting-- estimate lang ito, di kumpleto kasi we all know as of the moment... we're still waiting for her other sources of income like from UP (University of the Philippines), eto lang po 'yung andito sa Piatco-- the amount is P2,014,233.20. That's the estimated basic tax. If we put surcharge and interest, puwede lumaki pa," he said.

Guballa confirmed that despite Sereno's over-payments, there were still discrepancies.

In particular, he said there were 6 violations for evading the payment of taxes and the failure to pay correct taxes. Guballa noted the discrepancy in her payment of value added tax (VAT) as a professional. 

"For income tax, medyo maliit ang discrepancy for 2004. We noted in her ITR supposed to be 'yung income tax due per income tax return [in] 2004 [was] P2 million, but what's only paid was P1.6 million. Most of the discrepancies are coming from the VAT,” he said.

In an earlier House hearing, Sereno's spokesperson Jojo Lacanilao denied the allegations that the chief magistrate failed to pay the correct taxes.

“Napakadali namang ma-verify kung nagbayad or di nagbayad si CJ (Chief Justice) ng kaniyang taxes. Transparent naman po siya. Lahat po ng taxes na kailangan bayaran, binayaran po ni chief justice. Wala po siyang makikitang tax evasion o pagdadaya sa kaniyang tax evasion," he said.

Sereno is facing an impeachment case over her alleged misdeclared wealth and extravagant lifestyle. She has denied the charges. 

On Tuesday, her camp announced that she would go on a "wellness leave." Supreme Court sources, however, said the high court en banc forced her to take an indefinite break while facing impeachment proceedings.