Marcoses not primarily liable in unsettled estate tax, says former BIR exec

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 7) — The family of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is not primarily liable for failing to settle their estate tax which is estimated to have ballooned to over ₱203 billion, a former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) official said on Thursday.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source, former assistant commissioner Edwin Abella said the government should have taken measures to satisfy the unsettled liabilities of the Marcos heirs, agreeing that the ₱23 billion tax due was already deemed final and executory as early as 1997.

But for Abella, the Marcoses have nothing to do with the issue.

"Some sectors are trying to enforce it against the heirs which is not right insofar as estate tax is concerned because the estate is the one primarily liable for the payment of taxes," he said. "Because that is a tax on the transmission of the properties to the lawful heirs."

"The heirs cannot be made liable thereon, unless proven that the property has (been) passed on to them," he noted.

Former BIR commissioner Kim Henares earlier stressed that anyone who has either legally or illegally acquired certain assets must still settle their dues based on the Tax Code.

Section 91(D) of the Tax Code states that an estate tax "shall be paid by the executor or administrator before delivery to any beneficiary of his distributive share of the estate. Such beneficiary shall to the extent of his distributive share of the estate, be subsidiarily liable for the payment of such portion of the estate tax as his distributive share bears to the value of the total net estate."

Abella, who has worked for the agency for over three decades, said the collection enforcement personnel should have collected the tax deficiencies long ago.

The government could have also sold the seized properties from the Marcoses to satisfy their liabilities, he added.

Senator Koko Pimentel has listed at least three committees that could tackle the Marcos estate tax, after filing a resolution to conduct an investigation on the matter.

Pimentel said they can still pursue the inquiry before or even after elections in the hope that former top BIR officials and estate administrators Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Imelda Marcos will show up.

READ: Pimentel lists possible panels in Senate probe on Marcos estate tax 

The camp of Marcos Jr., who has maintained his lead in the Pulse Asia survey of first-choice presidential preference, has repeatedly dismissed the issue surrounding their unsettled tax.

"Our political adversary is again painting the town yellow with his usual falsehood, lies, hatred and black propaganda," Marcos' spokesperson Vic Rodriguez said in a statement on Tuesday.

Rodriguez noted that critics of the Marcos family did not mention that the BIR already issued 30 notices of levy, which resorted to public sale of levied properties and there being no bidder, “lots subject of the public sale [were] declared forfeited in favor of the government in satisfaction of the estate tax due.”

The BIR sent a letter to the Marcos family in December 2001 that demanded payment for their tax liabilities. President Rodrigo Duterte has also called out the BIR for uncollected estate tax, but did not name names.