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Zuellig’s nearly P40-M refund case up for tax court to resolve, says SC

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THE Supreme Court remanded to the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) the dismissed tax refund claim of Zuellig Pharma Asia Pacific Ltd. Phils. ROHQ. worth P39.93 million representing excessive and unutilized input value-added tax for 2010.

In a 12-page decision dated July 15 released last month, the court’s second division said the CTA “erred in dismissing” the company’s claim for refund.

“Since the CTA-Second Division had already conducted a trial on the merits but instead chose to dismiss Zuellig-PH’s claim on the aforementioned ground, the Court finds it proper to remand the case to it for a resolution on the merits with utmost dispatch,” the court said, reversing the decision of the CTA.

It said that Zuellig timely filed its petition for review before the CTA on Sept. 25, 2014.

Zuellig filed an administrative claim for refund before the Bureau of Internal Revenue in February 2011 for taxes it paid in 2010.

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In June of the same year, the bureau requested Zuellig to submit supporting documents to its claim and complied the next month. Further “verbal requests for submission of documents” were made from 2012 to 2014, the court said, citing the company. Complete submission was made on April 29, 2014.

Under the Tax Code, the court said that the bureau is to grant a refund or issue a tax credit certificate within 120 days from submission of complete documents. The taxpayer has 30 days from the receipt of the denial or lapse of the period 120-days without a decision, to fail a claim to the CTA.

Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 49-2003 also states that claims shall be processed within 120 days from receipt of complete document.

The court said the company complied with the BIR’s written and verbal requests for additional documents. All verbal requests and submissions in response were confirmed by the bureau, it said.

It said that the 120-day period should be counted starting from the April 29, 2014 letter of Zuellig, stating that it had already submitted complete documents.

“Thus, its Petition for Review was timely filed on September 25, 2014,” it said.

The court also said that the Tax Code or the RMC No. 49-2003 did not require the authority’s request for additional documents in a specific form.

“Stated differently, nowhere in the law does it require that the request for additional documents must always and absolutely be made in written form,” it said

The court said that this applies to refund claims filed before June 11, 2014 as RMC No. 54-2014 requires taxpayers to submit complete documents upon filing of an administrative case.

The tax appellate court’s second division in March 2017 dismissed the tax refund claim of Zuellig for being filed out of time, saying the 120-day period the bureau should act on the refund claim should start on July 5, 2011 when the company submitted the requested documents.

The CTA disregarded the verbal requests for written documents as it should be in writing, it said. The court en banc affirmed the decision in January 2019. —  Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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