• UP plea for P19-M tax exemption thrown out

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    THE Court of Appeals junked an appeal filed by the University of the Philippines (UP) seeking exemption from paying more than P19 million worth of registration fees in a contract it signed with a private property developer.

    In a 12-page decision penned by Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba and concurred by Associate Justices Rosmari Caran-dang and Ricardo Rosario, the CA Fifth Division denied for lack of merit the petition for certiorari filed by the UP management assailing the letter/ ruling dated February 4, 2010 issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) denying the former’s appeal from the verdict of the Land Registration Authority (LRA).

    The LRA had denied UP’s request for exemption from paying registration fee worth P19,254,128 representing registration fees in the contract of lease it entered in 2007 with Ayala Land Inc., for the development of the UP North Science and Technology Park, Phase I.

    Citing Section 23(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, UP claimed that the request was grounded on the constitutional provision that all lands, and improvements, actually directly, and exclusively used for educational purposes shall be exempted from taxation.

    UP’s requests and pleas were both denied, prompting the public university to elevate the case to the appellate court.

    LRA ruled that the exemption is only from the payment of taxes assessed on all lands, buildings, and improvements used exclusively for such purposes, as property taxes, as contradistinguished (to distinguish by contrasting qualities) from excise taxes.

    As to UP’s case, LRA held that what the collector assessed was a donee’s gift tax, the assessment was not on the properties themselves.

    However, the appellate tribunal held that DENR “[d]id no act with grave abuse of discretion when it failed to act on petitioner’s appeal.”

    “DENR’s refusal to entertain the appeal was due to its lack of appellate jurisdiction over decisions or orders issued by the LRA . . .” the CA said.

    Jomar Canlas

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