CTA affirms Jollibee Worldwide’s P18.5-M refund claim

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THE Court of Tax Appeals  (CTA) has affirmed its ruling that granted the refund claim of Jollibee Worldwide Pte. Ltd. worth P18.48 million representing its wrongly collected taxes for fiscal year 2009.

In a 12-page decision dated Jan. 10 and made public on Jan. 13, the CTA full court agreed with Worldwide as it said the amount was not legally due to the government.

It said the firm was denied due process when the commissioner of internal revenue (CIR) did not follow the mandated 15-day period to allow a taxpayer to respond to the preliminary assessment notice.

The court added that the decision was deemed final and unappealable since the CIR filed its appeal out of time.

Under the country’s revenue code, taxpayers are given 15 days to reply to a preliminary assessment and dispute their tax liabilities.

In 2020, the CTA Third Division ordered the CIR to refund or issue a tax credit certificate to Jollibee Worldwide for the P18.48 million.

“Respondent (CIR), in failing to await the lapse of the 15-day period, correspondingly disregarded the mandatory due process requirement laid down under the revenue regulations,” Associate Justice Catherine T. Manahan said in the en banc’s ruling.

The tax tribunal said tax assessments that fail to afford a taxpayer due process must be voided.

The CIR argued that Jollibee Worldwide was liable to pay the assessed deficiency taxes since it was given enough time to contest the preliminary assessment notice.

Citing the Supreme Court, the commissioner said procedural rules may be relaxed if “strong considerations of substantive justice are manifest.”

The official said the tax court should be able to relax its rules since the delayed filing was not because of the CIR’s negligence.

The CTA disagreed saying the revenue code’s rules cannot be overlooked and do not exist for the convenience of those involved in a dispute.

“Finality of judgment becomes a fact upon the lapse of the reglementary period to appeal if no appeal is perfected,” it said.

“The failure of a party to perfect an appeal within the period fixed by law renders final the decision sought to be appealed.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez