MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – By failing to pay the proper income tax, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno could have violated the country’s tax code 6 times, a high-ranking official of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said on Tuesday, February 27.
“From 2005, [we have found] 6 counts of violation. If we follow procedure, then under Section 255 of the tax code, failure to pay income tax is liable,” BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa told the House committee on justice, which is trying to determine probable cause in an impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice.
Guballa said Sereno may be found liable for violating both Section 255 and 245 of the tax code.
Section 254 spells out the sanction for persons who attempt to evade paying taxes, while Section 255 spells out sanctions for those who fail to give the correct information, pay withholding taxes, and the like.
Guballa estimated that Sereno apparently failed to pay the bureau around P2 million, including interest and surcharges.
File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler
Asked if Sereno was still “committing” the crime, Guballa answered in the affirmative.
According to the BIR, Sereno earned over P32.49 million in lawyer’s fees for her work in the government’s case against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc (Piatco).
Guballa added that the bureau is still waiting for additional documents pertaining to Sereno’s other sources of income during years covered by their investigation, including the University of the Philippines (UP), where Sereno taught law.
The Sereno camp, in a statement, said: "As government’s co-legal counsel in the Piatco cases from 2004-2009, the Chief Justice paid a total of P8.67 million for the income earned during these years. The CJ did not receive any notice or letter from the BIR calling her attention in connection with her ITR filings within the prescriptive period and thereafter, debunking claims on the supposed discrepancy in her ITR filings made 8 to 13 years ago."
In the impeachment complaint against her, lawyer Larry Gadon accused Sereno of failing to be truthful in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) – a document government officials must submit every year. SALN discrepancies were the basis for impeaching and convicting Sereno’s immediate predecessor, the late Renato Corona.
The probe into her SALNs also revealed that Sereno had apparently failed to submit several documents to the Judicial and Bar Council, which screens applicants to the top judiciary posts.