Cooperatives, including their members, deserve a preferential tax treatment because of the vital role they play in the attainment of economic development and social justice. Thus, although taxes are the lifeblood of the government, the State’s power to tax must give way to foster the creation and growth of cooperatives. To borrow the words of Justice Isagani A. Cruz: "The power of taxation, while indispensable, is not absolute and may be subordinated to the demands of social justice."
1. Dumaguete Cathedral Credit Cooperative (DCCCO) is a credit cooperative with the following objectives and purposes: (1) to increase the income and purchasing power of the members; (2) to pool the resources of the members by encouraging savings and promoting thrift to mobilize capital formation for development activities; and (3) to extend loans to members for provident and productive purposes.
2. (BIR) Operations Group Deputy Commissioner, issued Letters of Authority authorizing BIR Officers to examine petitioner’s books of accounts and other accounting records for all internal revenue taxes for the taxable years 1999 and 2000.
3. On 2002, DCCCO received Pre-Assessment Notices for deficiency withholding taxes for taxable years 1999 and 2000. The deficiency withholding taxes cover the payments of the honorarium of the Board of Directors, security and janitorial services, legal and professional fees, and interest on savings and time deposits of its members.
4. DCCCO informed BIR that it would ONLY pay the deficiency withholding taxes corresponding to the honorarium of the Board of Directors, security and janitorial services, legal and professional fees for the year 1999 and 2000, EXCLUDING penalties and interest.
5. After payment, DCCCO received from the BIR Transcripts of Assessment and Audit Results/Assessment Notices, ordering petitioner to pay the deficiency withholding taxes, INCLUSIVE of penalties, for the years 1999 and 2000.
6. DCCO's contention:
Under Sec. 24. Income Tax Rates. — x x x x (B) Rate of Tax on Certain Passive Income: — (1) Interests, Royalties, Prizes, and Other Winnings. — A final tax at the rate of twenty percent (20%) is hereby imposed upon the amount of interest from any currency bank deposit and yield or any other monetary benefit from deposit substitutes and from trust funds and similar arrangements; x x x applies only to banks and not to cooperatives, since the phrase "similar arrangements" is preceded by terms referring to banking transactions that have deposit peculiarities. Therefore, the savings and time deposits of members of cooperatives are not included in the enumeration, and thus not subject to the 20% final tax. Also, pursuant to Article XII, Section 15 of the Constitution 25 and Article 2 of Republic Act No. 6938 (RA 6938) or the Cooperative Code of the Philippines, cooperatives enjoy a preferential tax treatment which exempts their members from the application of Section 24(B)(1) of the NIRC.
Whether or not DCCCO is liable to pay the deficiency withholding taxes on interest from savings and time deposits of its members for the taxable years 1999 and 2000, as well as the delinquency interest of 20% per annum?
DCCCO is not liable. The NIRC states that a "final tax at the rate of twenty percent (20%) is hereby imposed upon the amount of interest on currency bank deposit and yield or any other monetary benefit from the deposit substitutes and from trust funds and similar arrangement x x x" for individuals under Section 24(B)(1) and for domestic corporations under Section 27(D)(1). Considering the members’ deposits with the cooperatives are not currency bank deposits nor deposit substitutes, Section 24(B)(1) and Section 27(D)(1), therefore, do not apply to members of cooperatives and to deposits of primaries with federations, respectively.
Under Article 2 of RA 6938, as amended by RA 9520, it is a declared policy of the State to foster the creation and growth of cooperatives as a practical vehicle for promoting self-reliance and harnessing people power towards the attainment of economic development and social justice. Thus, to encourage the formation of cooperatives and to create an atmosphere conducive to their growth and development, the State extends all forms of assistance to them, one of which is providing cooperatives a preferential tax treatment.
The legislative intent to give cooperatives a preferential tax treatment is apparent in Articles 61 and 62 of RA 6938, which read:
ART. 61. Tax Treatment of Cooperatives. — Duly registered cooperatives under this Code which do not transact any business with non-members or the general public shall not be subject to any government taxes and fees imposed under the Internal Revenue Laws and other tax laws. Cooperatives not falling under this article shall be governed by the succeeding section. ART. 62. Tax and Other Exemptions. — Cooperatives transacting business with both members and nonmembers shall not be subject to tax on their transactions to members. Notwithstanding the provision of any law or regulation to the contrary, such cooperatives dealing with nonmembers shall enjoy the following tax exemptions; x x x.
This exemption extends to members of cooperatives. It must be emphasized that cooperatives exist for the benefit of their members. In fact, the primary objective of every cooperative is to provide goods and services to its members to enable them to attain increased income, savings, investments, and productivity. 30 Therefore, limiting the application of the tax exemption to cooperatives would go against the very purpose of a credit cooperative. Extending the exemption to members of cooperatives, on the other hand, would be consistent with the intent of the legislature. Thus, although the tax exemption only mentions cooperatives, this should be construed to include the members.
It is also worthy to note that the tax exemption in RA 6938 was retained in RA 9520. The only difference is that Article 61 of RA 9520 (formerly Section 62 of RA 6938) now expressly states that transactions of members with the cooperatives are not subject to any taxes and fees. Thus: ART. 61. Tax and Other Exemptions. Cooperatives transacting business with both members and non-members shall not be subjected to tax on their transactions with members. In relation to this, the transactions of members with the cooperative shall not be subject to any taxes and fees, including but not limited to final taxes on members’ deposits and documentary tax. Notwithstanding the provisions of any law or regulation to the contrary, such cooperatives dealing with nonmembers shall enjoy the following tax exemptions. Moreover, no less than our Constitution guarantees the protection of cooperatives. Section 15, Article XII of the Constitution considers cooperatives as instruments for social justice and economic development. At the same time, Section 10 of Article II of the Constitution declares that it is a policy of the State to promote social justice in all phases of national development.