Posted by: Elmer Brabante | January 29, 2010

Luzon Stevedoring Corporation vs. Court of Tax Appeals, GR No. L-30232 (July 29, 1988)


LUZON STEVEDORING CORPORATION vs. COURT OF TAX APPEALS and the COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE

GR No. L-30232

July 29, 1988


FACTS:

Petitioner-appellant Luzon Stevadoring Corporation (LSC), in 1961 and 1962, for the repair and maintenance of its tugboats, imported various engine parts and other equipment for which it paid, under protest, the assessed compensating tax. Unable to secure a tax refund from the CIR, on January 2, 1964, it filed a Petition for Review with the CTA, praying among others, that it be granted the refund of the amount of P33,442.13.

Petitioner contends that tugboats are embraced and included in the term cargo vessel under the tax exemption provisions of Section 190 of the Revenue Code, as amended by Republic Act. No. 3176. He argues that in legal contemplation, the tugboat and a barge loaded with cargoes with the former towing the latter for loading and unloading of a vessel in part, constitute a single vessel. Accordingly, it concludes that the engines, spare parts and equipment imported by it and used in the repair and maintenance of its tugboats are exempt from compensating tax.

The CTA, however, in a Decision dated October 21, 1969 denied the various claims for tax refund. Its Motion for Reconsideration was also denied.

ISSUES:

Whether or not petitioner’s tugboats can be interpreted to be included in the term “cargo vessels” for purposes of the tax exemption provided for in Section 190 of the National Internal Revenue Code, as amended by Republic Act No. 3176.

HELD:

Petition without merit. Section 190 of NIRC provides that the tax imposed in this section shall not apply to articles to be used by the importer himself in the manufacture or preparation of articles subject to specific tax or those for consignment abroad and are to form part thereof or to articles to be used by the importer himself as passenger and/or cargo vessel, whether coastwise or oceangoing, including engines and spare parts of said vessel.

This Court has laid down the rule that “as the power of taxation is a high prerogative of sovereignty, the relinquishment is never presumed and any reduction or dimunition thereof with respect to its mode or its rate, must be strictly construed, and the same must be coached in clear and unmistakable terms in order that it may be applied. More specifically stated, the general rule is that any claim for exemption from the tax statute should be strictly construed against the taxpayer.

As correctly analyzed by the Court of Tax Appeals, in order that the importations in question may be declared exempt from the compensating tax, it is indispensable that the requirements of the amendatory law be complied with, namely: (1) the engines and spare parts must be used by the importer himself as a passenger and/or cargo, vessel; and (2) the said passenger and/or cargo vessel must be used in coastwise or oceangoing navigation.

As pointed out by the CTA, the amendatory provisions of RA 3176 limit tax exemption from the compensating tax to imported items to be used by the importer himself as operator of passenger and/or cargo vessel.

As quoted in the decision of the Court of Tax Appeals, a tugboat is defined as follows:

tugboat is a strongly built, powerful steam or power vessel, used for towing and, now, also used for attendance on vessel. (Webster New International Dictionary, 2nd Ed.)

A tugboat is a diesel or steam power vessel designed primarily for moving large ships to and from piers for towing barges and lighters in harbors, rivers and canals. (Encyclopedia International Grolier, Vol. 18, p. 256).

tug is a steam vessel built for towing, synonymous with tugboat. (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary.).

Under the foregoing definitions, petitioner’s tugboats clearly do not fall under the categories of passenger and/or cargo vessels. Thus, it is a cardinal principle of statutory construction that where a provision of law speaks categorically, the need for interpretation is obviated, no plausible pretense being entertained to justify non-compliance. All that has to be done is to apply it in every case that falls within its terms (Allied Brokerage Corp. v. Commissioner of Customs, L-27641, 40 SCRA 555 [1971]; Quijano, etc. v. DBP, L-26419, 35 SCRA 270 [1970]).

And, even if construction and interpretation of the law is insisted upon, following another fundamental rule that statutes are to be construed in the light of purposes to be achieved and the evils sought to be remedied (People v. Purisima etc., et al., L-42050-66, 86 SCRA 544 [1978], it will be noted that the legislature in amending Section 190 of the Tax Code by Republic Act 3176, as appearing in the records, intended to provide incentives and inducements to bolster the shipping industry and not the business of stevedoring, as manifested in the sponsorship speech of Senator Gil Puyat.

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