Commissioner of Internal Revenue vs Metro Star Superama, Inc.
Taxation – Pre-Assessment Notice – Due Process Requirement
In January 2001, a revenue officer was authorized to examine the books of accounts of Metro Star Superama, Inc. In April 2002, after the audit review, the revenue district officer issued a formal assessment notice against Metro Star advising the latter that it is liable to pay P292,874.16 in deficiency taxes. Metro Star assailed the issuance of the formal assessment notice as it averred that due process was not observed when it was not issued a pre-assessment notice. Nevertheless, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue authorized the issuance of a Warrant of Distraint and/or Levy against the properties of Metro Star.
Metro Star then appealed to the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA Case No. 7169). The CTA ruled in favor of Metro Star.
ISSUE: Whether or not due process was observed in the issuance of the formal assessment notice against Metro Star.
HELD: No. It is true that there is a presumption that the tax assessment was duly issued. However, this presumption is disregarded if the taxpayer denies ever having received a tax assessment from the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In such cases, it is incumbent upon the BIR to prove by competent evidence that such notice was indeed received by the addressee-taxpayer. The onus probandi was shifted to the BIR to prove by contrary evidence that the Metro Star received the assessment in the due course of mail. In the case at bar, the CIR merely alleged that Metro Star received the pre-assessment notice in January 2002. The CIR could have simply presented the registry receipt or the certification from the postmaster that it mailed the pre-assessment notice, but failed. Neither did it offer any explanation on why it failed to comply with the requirement of service of the pre-assessment notice. The Supreme Court emphasized that the sending of a pre-assessment notice is part of the due process requirement in the issuance of a deficiency tax assessment,” the absence of which renders nugatory any assessment made by the tax authorities.
Taxes are the lifeblood of the government and so should be collected without unnecessary hindrance. But even so, it is a requirement in all democratic regimes that it be exercised reasonably and in accordance with the prescribed procedure.