CIR vs Norton and Harrison Company (G.R. No. L-17618 August 31, 1964)

Collector of Internal Revenue vs Norton and Harrison Company
G.R. No. L-17618 August 31, 1964 

Facts: Norton and Harrison is a corporation organized in 1911, (1) to buy and sell at wholesale and retail, all kinds of goods, wares, and merchandise; (2) to act as agents of manufacturers in the United States and foreign countries; and (3) to carry on and conduct a general wholesale and retail mercantile establishment in the Philippines. Jackbilt is, likewise, a corporation organized on February 16, 1948 primarily for the purpose of making, producing and manufacturing concrete blocks. Under date of July 27, 1948. Norton and Jackbilt entered into an agreement whereby Norton was made the sole and exclusive distributor of concrete blocks manufactured by Jackbilt. Pursuant to this agreement, whenever an order for concrete blocks was received by the Norton & Harrison Co. from a customer, the order was transmitted to Jackbilt which delivered the merchandise direct to the customer. Payment for the goods is, however, made to Norton, which in turn pays Jackbilt the amount charged the customer less a certain amount, as its compensation or profit. To exemplify the sales procedures adopted by the Norton and Jackbilt, the following may be cited. In the case of the sale of 420 pieces of concrete blocks to the American Builders on April 1, 1952, the purchaser paid to Norton the sum of P189.00 the purchase price. Out of this amount Norton paid Jackbilt P168.00, the difference obviously being its compensation. As per records of Jackbilt, the transaction was considered a sale to Norton. It was under this procedure that the sale of concrete blocks manufactured by Jackbilt was conducted until May 1, 1953, when the agency agreement was terminated and a management agreement between the parties was entered into. The management agreement provided that Norton would sell concrete blocks for Jackbilt, for a fixed monthly fee of P2,000.00, which was later increased to P5,000.00.  During the existence of the distribution or agency agreement, or on June 10, 1949, Norton & Harrison acquired by purchase all the outstanding shares of stock of Jackbilt. Apparently, due to this transaction, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, after conducting an investigation, assessed the respondent Norton & Harrison for deficiency sales tax and surcharges in the amount of P32,662.90, making as basis thereof the sales of Norton to the Public. In other words, the Commissioner considered the sale of Norton to the public as the original sale and not the transaction from Jackbilt.
 
Issue: Whether or not the doctrine of piercing the corporate veil should be applied in order to make respondent corporation liable for the sales deficiency tax.
 
Held: Yes. Jackbilt is merely an adjunct, business conduit or alter ego, of Norton and Harrison and that the fiction of corporate entities, separate and distinct from each, should be disregarded. This is a case where the doctrine of piercing the veil of corporate fiction, should be made to apply.
 
Where a corporation is a dummy, is unreal or a sham and serves no business purpose and is intended only as a blind, the corporate form may be ignored for the law cannot countenance a form that is bald and a mischievous fictions.
 
A taxpayer may gain advantage of doing business thru a corporation if he pleases, but the revenue officers in proper cases, may disregard the separate corporate entity where it serves but as a shield for tax evasion and treat the person who actually may take benefits of the transactions as the person accordingly taxable
 
It has been settled that the ownership of all the stocks of a corporation by another corporation does not necessarily breed an identity of corporate interest between the two companies and be considered as a sufficient ground for disregarding the distinct personalities (Liddell & Co., Inc. v. Coll. of Int. Rev. L-9687, June 30, 1961). However, in the case at bar, we find sufficient grounds to support the theory that the separate identities of the two companies should be disregarded. Among these circumstances, which we find not successfully refuted by appellee Norton are: (a) Norton and Harrison owned all the outstanding stocks of Jackbilt; of the 15,000 authorized shares of Jackbilt on March 31, 1958, 14,993 shares belonged to Norton and Harrison and one each to seven others; (b) Norton constituted Jackbilt’s board of directors in such a way as to enable it to actually direct and manage the other’s affairs by making the same officers of the board for both companies. For instance, James E. Norton is the President, Treasurer, Director and Stockholder of Norton. He also occupies the same positions in Jackbilt corporation, the only change being, in the Jackbilt, he is merely a nominal stockholder. The same is true with Mr. Jordan, F. M. Domingo, Mr. Mantaring, Gilbert Golden and Gerardo Garcia, while they are merely employees of the North they are Directors and nominal stockholders of the Jackbilt (c) Norton financed the operations of the Jackbilt, and this is shown by the fact that the loans obtained from the RFC and Bank of America were used in the expansion program of Jackbilt, to pay advances for the purchase of equipment, materials rations and salaries of employees of Jackbilt and other sundry expenses. There was no limit to the advances given to Jackbilt so much so that as of May 31, 1956, the unpaid advances amounted to P757,652.45, which were not paid in cash by Jackbilt, but was offset by shares of stock issued to Norton, the absolute and sole owner of Jackbilt; (d) Norton treats Jackbilt employees as its own. Evidence shows that Norton paid the salaries of Jackbilt employees and gave the same privileges as Norton employees, an indication that Jackbilt employees were also Norton’s employees. Furthermore service rendered in any one of the two companies were taken into account for purposes of promotion; (e) Compensation given to board members of Jackbilt, indicate that Jackbilt is merely a department of Norton. The income tax return of Norton for 1954 shows that as President and Treasurer of Norton and Jackbilt, he received from Norton P56,929.95, but received from Jackbilt the measly amount of P150.00, a circumstance which points out that remuneration of purported officials of Jackbilt are deemed included in the salaries they received from Norton. The same is true in the case of Eduardo Garcia, an employee of Norton but a member of the Board of Jackbilt. His Income tax return for 1956 reveals that he received from Norton in salaries and bonuses P4,220.00, but received from Jackbilt, by way of entertainment, representation, travelling and transportation allowances P3,000.00. However, in the withholding statement (Exh. 28-A), it was shown that the total of P4,200.00 and P3,000.00 (P7,220.00) was received by Garcia from Norton, thus portraying the oneness of the two companies. The Income Tax Returns of Albert Golden and Dioscoro Ramos both employees of Norton but board members of Jackbilt, also disclose the game method of payment of compensation and allowances. The offices of Norton and Jackbilt are located in the same compound. Payments were effected by Norton of accounts for Jackbilt and vice versa. Payments were also made to Norton of accounts due or payable to Jackbilt and vice versa.  
 
It may not be amiss to state in this connection, the advantages to Norton in maintaining a semblance of separate entities. If the income of Norton should be considered separate from the income of Jackbilt, then each would declare such earning separately for income tax purposes and thus pay lesser income tax. The combined taxable Norton-Jackbilt income would subject Norton to a higher tax. Based upon the 1954-1955 income tax return of Norton and Jackbilt, and assuming that both of them are operating on the same fiscal basis and their returns are accurate, we would have the following result: Jackbilt declared a taxable net income of P161,202.31 in which the income tax due was computed at P37,137.00; whereas Norton declared as taxable, a net income of P120,101.59, on which the income tax due was computed at P25,628.00. The total of these liabilities is P50,764.84. On the other hand, if the net taxable earnings of both corporations are combined, during the same taxable year, the tax due on their total which is P281,303.90 would be P70,764.00. So that, even on the question of income tax alone, it would be to the advantages of Norton that the corporations should be regarded as separate entities. 

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