GENERAL RULE: A stock dividend representing the transfer of surplus to capital account shall not be subject to tax.
EXCEPTION: The redemption or cancellation of stock dividends, depending on the "time" and "manner" it was made, is essentially equivalent to a distribution of taxable dividends," making the proceeds thereof "taxable income" "to the extent it represents profits".
FACTS: -- reversal of the decision of the CA
• Don Andres Soriano, a citizen and resident of the United States, formed the corporation "A. Soriano Y Cia", predecessor of ANSCOR, with a P1,000,000.00 capitalization divided into 10,000 common shares at a par value of P100/share. ANSCOR is wholly owned and controlled by the family of Don Andres, who are all nonresident aliens.
• In 1937, Don Andres subscribed to 4,963 shares of the 5,000 shares originally issued. In 1945, ANSCOR's authorized capital stock was increased to P2,500,000.00 divided into 25,000 common shares with the same par value. Don Andres' increased his subscription to 14,963 common shares. A month later, Don Andres transferred 1,250 shares each to his two sons, Jose and Andres, Jr., as their initial investments in ANSCOR. Both sons are foreigners.
• From 1947-1963, ANSCOR declared stock dividends. On December 30, 1964 Don Andres died. As of that date, the records revealed that he has a total shareholdings of 185,154 shares. Correspondingly, one-half of that shareholdings or 92,577 shares were transferred to his wife, Doña Carmen Soriano, as her conjugal share. The other half formed part of his estate.
• A day after Don Andres died, ANSCOR increased its capital stock to P20M and in 1966 further increased it to P30M. Stock dividends worth 46,290 and 46,287 shares were respectively received by the Don Andres estate and Doña Carmen from ANSCOR. Hence, increasing their accumulated shareholdings to 138,867 and 138,864 common shares each.
• On June 30, 1968, pursuant to a Board Resolution, ANSCOR redeemed 28,000 common shares from the Don Andres' estate. By November 1968, the Board further increased ANSCOR's capital stock to P75M. About a year later, ANSCOR again redeemed 80,000 common shares from the Don Andres' estate. As stated in the Board Resolutions, ANSCOR's business purpose for both redemptions of stocks is to partially retire said stocks as treasury shares in order to reduce the company's foreign exchange remittances in case cash dividends are declared.
• In 1973, after examining ANSCOR's books of account and records, Revenue examiners issued a report proposing that ANSCOR be assessed for deficiency withholding tax-at-source, pursuant to Sections 53 and 54 of the 1939 Revenue Code for the year 1968 and the second quarter of 1969 based on the transactions of exchange and redemption of stocks.
• Whether or not ANSCOR's redemption of stocks from its stockholder as well as the exchange of common with preferred shares can be considered as "essentially equivalent to the distribution of taxable dividend" making the proceeds thereof taxable.
• YES. The bone of contention is the interpretation and application of Section 83(b) of the 1939 Revenue Act 38 which provides:
• Sec. 83. Distribution of dividends or assets by corporations. — (b) Stock dividends — A stock dividend representing the transfer of surplus to capital account shall not be subject to tax. However, if a corporation cancels or redeems stock issued as a dividend at such time and in such manner as to make the distribution and cancellation or redemption, in whole or in part, essentially equivalent to the distribution of a taxable dividend, the amount so distributed in redemption or cancellation of the stock shall be considered as taxable income to the extent it represents a distribution of earnings or profits accumulated after March first, nineteen hundred and thirteen.
• Sec. 83(b) of the 1939 NIRC was taken from the Section 115(g)(1) of the U.S. Revenue Code of 1928. It laid down the general rule known as the proportionate test wherein stock dividends once issued form part of the capital and, thus, subject to income tax. Specifically, the general rule states that: A stock dividend representing the transfer of surplus to capital account shall not be subject to tax.
• Stock dividends, strictly speaking, represent capital and do not constitute income to its recipient. So that the mere issuance thereof is not yet subject to income tax as they are nothing but an "enrichment through increase in value of capital investment."
• The exception provides that the redemption or cancellation of stock dividends, depending on the "time" and "manner" it was made, is essentially equivalent to a distribution of taxable dividends," making the proceeds thereof "taxable income" "to the extent it represents profits". The exception was designed to prevent the issuance and cancellation or redemption of stock dividends, which is fundamentally not taxable, from being made use of as a device for the actual distribution of cash dividends, which is taxable.
• Simply put, depending on the circumstances, the proceeds of redemption of stock dividends are essentially distribution of cash dividends, which when paid becomes the absolute property of the stockholder. Thereafter, the latter becomes the exclusive owner thereof and can exercise the freedom of choice. Having realized gain from that redemption, the income earner cannot escape income tax. For the exempting clause of Section, 83(b) to apply, it is indispensable that: (a) there is redemption or cancellation; (b) the transaction involves stock dividends and (c) the "time and manner" of the transaction makes it "essentially equivalent to a distribution of taxable dividends."
• Redemption is repurchase, a reacquisition of stock by a corporation which issued the stock 89 in exchange for property, whether or not the acquired stock is cancelled, retired or held in the treasury. 90 Essentially, the corporation gets back some of its stock, distributes cash or property to the shareholder in payment for the stock, and continues in business as before. In the case, ANSCOR redeemed shares twice. But where did the shares redeemed come from? If its source is the original capital subscriptions upon establishment of the corporation or from initial capital investment in an existing enterprise, its redemption to the concurrent value of acquisition may not invite the application of Sec. 83(b) under the 1939 Tax Code, as it is not income but a mere return of capital. On the contrary, if the redeemed shares are from stock dividend declarations other than as initial capital investment, the proceeds of the redemption is additional wealth, for it is not merely a return of capital but a gain thereon.
• It is not the stock dividends but the proceeds of its redemption that may be deemed as taxable dividends. At the time of the last redemption, the original common shares owned by the estate were only 25,247.5 91 This means that from the total of 108,000 shares redeemed from the estate, the balance of 82,752.5 (108,000 less 25,247.5) must have come from stock dividends. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Tax Code presumes that every distribution of corporate property, in whole or in part, is made out of corporate profits such as stock dividends. The capital cannot be distributed in the form of redemption of stock dividends without violating the trust fund doctrine.
• With respect to the third requisite, ANSCOR redeemed stock dividends issued just 2 to 3 years earlier. The time alone that lapsed from the issuance to the redemption is not a sufficient indicator to determine taxability. It is a must to consider the factual circumstances as to the manner of both the issuance and the redemption. The issuance of stock dividends and its subsequent redemption must be separate, distinct, and not related, for the redemption to be considered a legitimate tax scheme. Redemption cannot be used as a cloak to distribute corporate earnings.
• ANSCOR invoked two reasons to justify the redemptions — (1) the alleged "filipinization" program and (2) the reduction of foreign exchange remittances in case cash dividends are declared. The Court is not concerned with the wisdom of these purposes but on their relevance to the whole transaction which can be inferred from the outcome thereof. It is the "net effect rather than the motives and plans of the taxpayer or his corporation". The test of taxability under the exempting clause, when it provides "such time and manner" as would make the redemption "essentially equivalent to the distribution of a taxable dividend", is whether the redemption resulted into a flow of wealth. If no wealth is realized from the redemption, there may not be a dividend equivalence treatment.
• The test of taxability under the exempting clause of Section 83(b) is, whether income was realized through the redemption of stock dividends. The redemption converts into money the stock dividends which become a realized profit or gain and consequently, the stockholder's separate property. Profits derived from the capital invested cannot escape income tax. As realized income, the proceeds of the redeemed stock dividends can be reached by income taxation regardless of the existence of any business purpose for the redemption. Otherwise, to rule that the said proceeds are exempt from income tax when the redemption is supported by legitimate business reasons would defeat the very purpose of imposing tax on income.
• The issuance and the redemption of stocks are two different transactions. Although the existence of legitimate corporate purposes may justify a corporation's acquisition of its own shares under Section 41 of the Corporation Code, such purposes cannot excuse the stockholder from the effects of taxation arising from the redemption.
• Even if the said purposes support the redemption and justify the issuance of stock dividends, the same has no bearing whatsoever on the imposition of the tax herein assessed because the proceeds of the redemption are deemed taxable dividends since it was shown that income was generated therefrom.
• The proceeds thereof are essentially considered equivalent to a distribution of taxable dividends. As "taxable dividend" under Section 83(b), it is part of the "entire income" subject to tax under Section 22 in relation to Section 21 120 of the 1939 Code. Moreover, under Section 29(a) of said Code, dividends are included in "gross income". As income, it is subject to income tax which is required to be withheld at source.