SC denies BIR’s appeal on SALN request

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


BUREAU of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares suffered another blow on Tuesday in her quest to investigate the wealth of justices of the Supreme Court (SC), Court of Appeals (CA) and Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).

The Court denied Henares' motions for reconsideration for certified true copies of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of the magistrates from 2003 to 2012 for "lack of reasonable and sufficient basis," said SC spokesperson Theodore Te in a press briefing.

Henares was disturbed by the ruling, saying the provisions of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act does not even require any reason or legal basis for the mandatory release of SALNs.

"We are concerned that the SC has set a precedent that there need to be a sufficient and legal basis for the release of SALN and this same reasoning could be invoked by other government officials for refusing to release their SALN," she said in a text message to Sun.Star.

The BIR chief had said she will be using the SALNs "tax investigation purposes" and "in relation to" the reported corruption and influence peddling in the judiciary, which is being linked to a certain Ma'am Arlene.

But the SC said the BIR commissioner's powers are not absolute, especially that the Tax Code imposes a three-year limit on 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.

However, the SC said Henares failed to justify the application of the 10-year prescriptive period.

"Because fraud is never presumed and must be alleged and proven, the Court found it incredulous that the CIR (Commissioner of the Internal Revenue) seems to imply that all the justices of the SC, the CA and the CTA are being investigated for tax fraud," Te said.

Henares failed to allege in particular who she seeks to probe and had not notified those supposedly being investigated that they are being accused of fraud, the Court said.

Section 5 (B) of the Tax Code, which the BIR used as basis for the request, also does not authorize the acquisition of any information or an investigation prior to tax deficiency assessment.

"It (Section 5 (B)) should never be construed to authorize the conduct of a fishing expedition to hunt for any tax liability," Te said.

The Court was also curious why Henares did not ask for the SALNs of the other members of the judiciary like those in the Sandiganbayan or the first level courts, noting the BIR’s request was only limited to the tribunals that hear cases involving the agency.

The SC earlier said the justices are not hiding anything, proof of which was the list of 14 individuals from media and civil society, including law students, who have been able to obtain copies of various SALNs. (Sunnex)

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