by: Mickey Ingles (Photo credit: Air21 Express/Flickr)
Looks like Asi Taulava’s winning ways have euro-stepped from the basketball court to the tax court.
In a 41-page decision promulgated last November 3, 2017, the Court of Tax Appeals First Division ruled that the 6’9” basketball giant was not guilty of violating Section 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code. The 2003 PBA MVP and former Smart Gilas stalwart was charged in 2013 for willfully failing to pay deficiency income taxes and VAT for the taxable year 2004. He came out with some lockdown D—just like when he faced Kevin Durant in 2011.
In ruling for the Fil-Tongan, the court laid down the elements for conviction under Section 255. To convict Taulava, the BIR had to prove the (simplified) elements of the crime below:
- The accused was required by law to pay any tax at the time or times required by law;
- The accused failed to pay the required tax; and
- The accused willfully failed to pay such tax.
The court stated that the second and third elements all depend on the first—which is logical enough, given that you can’t fail to pay a certain tax if you’re not required to pay in the first place. So, the issue focused on the first element.
Was Asi required by law to pay any tax at the time required by law?
To answer this, the court noted that the requirement to pay any tax may arise in two ways.
First is through a self-assessment, where taxpayers determine his or her own tax liability, file their own return and pay the tax due at the time required by law (which is why there’s such a rush in the days leading to April 15).
Second is when the Commissioner of Internal Revenue or his or her representative issues a tax assessment against a taxpayer. A tax assessment is basically a demand on a taxpayer to pay tax or deficiency taxes to the government.
In Asi’s case, the first element of the crime arose from the second manner: Asi was supposedly required to pay taxes based on a tax assessment. Thing is, the BIR failed to prove that Asi was assessed in the first place. And if he wasn’t assessed to begin with, then he wasn’t required to pay deficiency taxes. And if he wasn’t required to pay deficiency taxes, then the first element goes poof and the case against him crumbles like a month-old brownie left forgotten in the back-seat of a car.
The BIR claimed that they had sent Asi the Formal Letter of Demand and Assessment Notices via registered mail. Taulava denied he ever got it. The BIR wanted to use the disputable presumption that a letter duly sent by mail was received by the adressee. So, as long as they were able to prove that the tax assessment was actually mailed, then they’d have the presumption that Asi received the tax assessment working in their favor.
They weren’t able to prove that the assessment was ever mailed. They could’ve presented the registry receipt by the Bureau of Posts or the Registry return card or a certification from the Bureau of Posts, but they were unable to do so.
From there, it was easy for the court to conclude that Taulava was never assessed and thus not obliged to pay any taxes, resulting to a big W for one of the PBA’s legendary centers.
Mickey Ingles is the editor-in-chief of Batas Sportiva. His favorite Asi moment was when 6’9″ Asi buried a hook in front of 7’5″ Yao Ming.