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(BDB Laws Tax Law For Business appears in the opinion section of BusinessMirror every

Thursday. BDB Law is an affiliate of Punongbayan & Araullo (P&A).

Local Tax: Remedies and Procedures

Philippine corporations do not only deal with the yearly tax investigation conducted and the ensuing tax assessments issued by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), but also with local tax assessments issued by the Treasurers Office of the respective Local Government Unit (LGU) where they are situated. The question is, how does a taxpayer deal with local tax assessments? Under Section 195 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160), a taxpayer may file a written protest with the local treasurer within 60 days from the receipt of the notice of assessment issued against it by the latter. From the date of filing, the local treasurer is then given another 60-day period to resolve the aforementioned written protest. In case the local treasurer does not find merit on the written protest filed by the taxpayer, the taxpayer is given a period of 30 days from the receipt of such denial to file an appeal with the court of competent jurisdiction. Nonetheless, it must be emphasized that under the law, the assessment becomes conclusive and unappealable if a taxpayer fails to appeal with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) within 30 days from the lapse of the 60-day period given to the local treasurer to decide the case. This means that a taxpayer must remain vigilant throughout the process because if the treasurer failed to issue a decision on the taxpayers administrative appeal, the assessment would become conclusive unless the taxpayer files an appeal with the court within the given 30-day period.

Hence, it is imperative for taxpayers to be aware that in local tax assessment cases, the non-action of local treasurers is in fact already an act of affirming the validity of the assessment, tantamount to the issuance of a denial of the appeal. It is likewise essential for taxpayers to take into consideration that the use of the word appeal in referring to the remedy available to those whose written protests were denied by the respective local treasurers under Section 195 of the LGC, is a misnomer. In the case of Yamane vs. BA Lepanto Condominium Corporation (G.R. No. 154993, October 25, 2005), the Supreme Court (SC) stressed that (o)riginal jurisdiction is the power of the Court to take judicial cognizance of a case instituted for judicial action for the first time under conditions provided by law. Appellate jurisdiction is the authority of a Court higher in rank to re-examine the final order or judgment of a lower Court which tried the case now elevated for judicial review.(Garcia vs. De Jesus, G.R. Nos. 88158 & 97108-09, March 4, 1992) The SC emphasized that the review taken by the RTC over the denial of the protest by the local treasurer would fall within that court's original jurisdiction. In short, the review is the initial judicial cognizance of the matter. Moreover, labeling the said review as an exercise of appellate jurisdiction is inappropriate, since the denial of the protest is not the judgment or order of a lower court, but of a local government official. To settle all doubts, the SC held that the Local Government Code, or any other statute for that matter, does not expressly confer appellate jurisdiction on the part of regional trial courts from the denial of a tax protest by a local treasurer. On the other hand, Section 22 of B.P. 129 expressly delineates the appellate jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts, confining as it does said appellate jurisdiction to cases decided by Metropolitan, Municipal, and Municipal Circuit Trial Courts. Unlike in the case of the Court of Appeals, B.P. 129 does not confer appellate jurisdiction on Regional Trial Courts over rulings made by non-judicial entities. As regards proper venue, the ruling of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) En Banc in the recent case of Philippine Long Distance Co., Inc. (PLDT) vs. City of Balanga and Amado P. Jimenez (C.T.A. EB No. 413, June 3, 2009) is very essential. In the said case, PLDT appealed the Balanga City Treasurers denial of its written protest to the RTC of Makati City on the premise that the aforementioned appeal under Section 195 of the LGC, is a personal action. PLDT claimed that pursuant to Section 2 Rule 4 of the 1997 Rules of Court, personal actions may be commenced and tried at the election of the plaintiff a) in the plaintiffs residence; or b) in the defendants residence; or c) in the case of a non-resident defendant, where he may be found. Hence, PLDT asserted that since its principal place of business is located in Makati City, it is proper for it to file the appeal with the RTC of Makati. The CTA En Banc was not persuaded. The Court held that where the acts of the public official are the object of the litigation, meaning, petitioner seeks to control them, then the suit must be filed in the RTC whose territorial jurisdiction encompasses the place where the respondent public official is found or holding office. For the rule is, outside its territorial limits, the court has no power to enforce its order.

In accordance with BP 129 and Supreme Court Supervisory Circular No. 14, the CTA En Banc affirmed the decision of its First Division stating, (t)he facts from which the various issues arose, originated in the Province of Bataan. As in criminal cases, crimes committed in Bataan must be tried in Bataan, unless for good reason it is moved by the Supreme Court to other Courts outside Bataan. Hence, as it cannot exercise its jurisdiction over respondents where the latter are not stationed within its territory, the court a quo is correct in dismissing the petition. In conclusion, it is beneficial for a taxpayer to not only know his rights but also to know the available remedies and proper procedure of availing them.