G.R. No. 171251. March 05, 2012 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title
Lascona Land Co., Inc. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue: On the Finality of Tax Assessments and Taxpayer’s Remedies

### Facts
The case stems from an Assessment Notice No. 0000047-93-407 issued by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) on March 27, 1998, against Lascona Land Co., Inc. (Lascona), demanding payment for alleged deficiency income tax for the year 1993 amounting to P753,266.56. Lascona filed a letter protest on April 20, 1998.

The protest was denied by the Officer-in-Charge, Regional Director, in a letter dated March 3, 1999, on the ground that the case was not elevated to the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) within the mandated period, rendering the assessment final, executory, and demandable.

In response, Lascona appealed to the CTA (C.T.A. Case No. 5777) on April 12, 1999, contending that the Regional Director’s decision was erroneous. The CIR countered that the failure to timely appeal within the 180-day period provided under Section 228 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) led to the finality of the assessment.

The CTA, in a decision dated January 4, 2000, nullified the assessment, positing that taxpayers had two options in the case of CIR’s inaction: either appeal to the CTA within 30 days from the lapse of 180 days or wait for the Commissioner’s decision before elevating the case. The CIR’s motion for reconsideration was denied on March 3, 2000.

This decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals (CA), declaring the assessment final, executory, and demandable, which Lascona challenged before the Supreme Court.

### Issues
1. Whether the subject assessment has become final, executory, and demandable due to Lascona’s failure to appeal before the CTA within 30 days from the lapse of the 180-day period pursuant to Section 228 of the NIRC.
2. Whether the interpretation of the CA, equating the inaction of the Commissioner with a “decision” that can render the assessment final if not appealed within the 180-day period, is correct.

### Court’s Decision
The Supreme Court granted Lascona’s petition, reversing the CA’s decision and reinstating the CTA’s ruling which nullified the tax assessment. The Court clarified that the taxpayer had two options upon the CIR’s inaction on the protested assessment: (1) appeal to the CTA within 30 days from the 180-day lapse, or (2) wait for the Commissioner’s final decision on the protest and appeal this decision within 30 days from receipt. The Court held that these options are mutually exclusive, and Lascona timely opted for the latter when it appealed the Regional Director’s decision to the CTA.

### Doctrine
The Court reiterated the doctrine that taxpayers have two options in case of the Commissioner’s inaction on a protested assessment: either to appeal to the CTA within 30 days post the 180-day period or to wait for the CIR’s final decision on the protest and then appeal within 30 days from receipt of such decision. This clarifies the taxpayers’ remedies under Section 228 of the NIRC against CIR’s inaction.

### Class Notes
– **Tax Assessment Dispute -** A taxpayer contesting an assessment has two options: (1) Appeal within 30 days after the 180-day inaction period lapses, (2) Wait for the CIR’s final decision and appeal within 30 days from receipt thereof.
– **Finality of Tax Assessments -** Failure to appeal within prescribed periods may render the assessment final and executory unless remedies are properly pursued within legal timelines.
– **Section 228, NIRC -** Provides the procedural steps and periods for contesting tax assessments, emphasizing the importance of timely responses and actions in tax disputes.

### Historical Background
This case highlights the procedural intricacies involved in tax disputes in the Philippines and the judicial interpretation of tax laws, particularly on the remedies available to taxpayers against assessments deemed final and executory due to inaction or decisions by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. It underscores the balance between the government’s authority to tax and the taxpayer’s rights to fair administration and adjudication of tax liabilities.


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