Political Law

Judge David Nitafan vs Commissioner of Internal Revenue

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G.R. No. 78780 – 152 SCRA 284 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Judicial Department – Judicial Autonomy – Income Tax Payment By The Judiciary

Judge David Nitafan and several other judges of the Manila Regional Trial Court seek to prohibit the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) from making any deduction of withholding taxes from their salaries or compensation for such would tantamount to a diminution of their salary, which is unconstitutional. Earlier however, or on June 7, 1987, the Supreme Court en banc had already reaffirmed the directive of the Chief Justice which directs the continued withholding of taxes of the justices and the judges of the judiciary – but the SC decided to rule on this case nonetheless to settle the issue once and for all.

ISSUE: Whether or not the members of the judiciary are exempt from the payment of income tax.

HELD: No. The clear intent of the framers of the Constitution, based on their deliberations, was NOT to exempt justices and judges from general taxation. Members of the judiciary, just like members of the other branches of the government, are subject to income taxation. What is provided for by the constitution is that salaries of judges may not be decreased during their continuance in office. They have a fixed salary which may not be subject to the whims and caprices of congress. But the salaries of the judges shall be subject to the general income tax as well as other members of the judiciary.

But may the salaries of the members of the judiciary be increased?

Yes. The Congress may pass a law increasing the salary of the members of the judiciary and such increase will immediately take effect thus the incumbent members of the judiciary (at the time of the passing of the law increasing their salary) shall benefit immediately.

Congress can also pass a law decreasing the salary of the members of the judiciary but such will only be applicable to members of the judiciary which are appointed AFTER the effectivity of such law.

 Note: This case abandoned the ruling in Perfecto vs Meer and in Endencia vs David.

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