G.R. No. 155541, 27 January 2004

FACTS:

During the lifetime of the decedent, Juliana Vda. De Gabriel, her business affairs were managed by the Philippine Trust Company (Philtrust). Two days after her death, Philtrust, through its Trust Officer, Atty. Antonio M. Nuyles, filed her Income Tax Return for 1978. The return did not indicate that the decedent had died. Philtrust also filed a verified petition for appointment as Special Administrator wit. The court a quo appointed one of the heirs as Special Administrator. Philtrust’s motion for reconsideration was denied by the probate court.

The court a quo issued an Order relieving Mr. Diez of his appointment, and appointed Antonio Lantin to take over as Special Administrator. Subsequently, Mr. Lantin was also relieved of his appointment, and Atty. Vicente Onosa was appointed in his stead.

In the meantime, the BIR conducted an administrative investigation on the decedent’s tax liability and found a deficiency income tax for the year 1977 in the amount of P318,233.93. Thus, on November 18, 1982, the BIR sent by registered mail a demand letter and Assessment Notice No. NARD-78-82-00501 addressed to the decedent “c/o Philippine Trust Company, Sta. Cruz, Manila” which was the address stated in her 1978 Income Tax Return. No response was made by Philtrust. The BIR was not informed that the decedent had actually passed away.

ISSUE:

Whether the service of deficiency tax assessment against the estate of Juliana Diez Vda. de Gabriel was a valid service in order to bind the Estate.

RULING:

The relationship between the decedent and Philtrust was one of agency, which is a personal relationship between agent and principal. Under Article 1919 (3) of the Civil Code, death of the agent or principal automatically terminates the agency. In this instance, the death of the decedent on April 3, 1979 automatically severed the legal relationship between her and Philtrust, and such could not be revived by the mere fact that Philtrust continued to act as her agent when, on April 5, 1979, it filed her Income Tax Return for the year 1978.

Since the relationship between Philtrust and the decedent was automatically severed at the moment of the Taxpayer’s death, none of Philtrust’s acts or omissions could bind the estate of the Taxpayer. Service on Philtrust of the demand letter and Assessment Notice No. NARD-78-82-00501 was improperly done.

It must be noted that Philtrust was never appointed as the administrator of the Estate of the decedent, and, indeed, that the court a quo twice rejected Philtrust’s motion to be thus appointed. As of November 18, 1982, the date of the demand letter and Assessment Notice, the legal relationship between the decedent and Philtrust had already been non-existent for three years.

*Case digest by Meriam Rika R. Wong, JD-IV, Andres Bonifacio College, SY 2019 – 2020