MANILA: The Supreme Court (SC) has rejected with finality the bid of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to collect almost P1 billion in import taxes from oil giant Pilipinas Shell Corp.
In an eight-page resolution released yesterday, the high court denied the BOC’s motion for reconsideration and instead affirmed its December 2016 decision that barred the agency from imposing tax on Shell’s 1996 crude oil importation amounting to P936,899,855.90.
The high court held that the appeal lacked merit as it did not raise new arguments to warrant the reversal of the earlier decision.
“Ergo, the Court rejects these arguments on the same grounds discussed in the challenged decision, and denies, as a matter of course, the pending motion,” the ruling, penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., read.
Apart from rejecting the appeal, the SC also denied the agency’s plea to refer the case to the full court.
The SC division reiterated its ruling that the BOC could no longer collect the amount on the ground of the one-year prescription period for collection of import duties under Section 1603 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines.
The SC held that the BOC failed to present evidence to back its claim that Shell acted in a fraudulent manner in evading payment of the import duties.
“At best, the allegation of fraud on the part of Pilipinas Shell is mere conjecture and purely speculative. Settled is the rule that a court cannot rely on speculations, conjectures or guesswork, but must depend upon competent proof and on the basis of the best evidence obtainable under the circumstances,” it stressed.
In its December 2016 ruling, the SC reversed and set aside the May 13, 2010 ruling issued by the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) which directed Pilipinas Shell to pay the specified amount plus an additional legal interest of six percent per annum on the total dutiable value.
The Court noted that Shell filed its Import Entry and Internal Revenue Declaration (IEIRD) and paid the remaining customs duties for the shipment on May 23, 1996.
It was only a little more than four years later, in August 2000, however, when Pilipinas Shell received a demand letter from the District Collector of Batangas for the alleged unpaid duties covering the shipment.