MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- Actress Judy Ann Santos has been cleared of tax evasion by the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA).
In a 46-page decision penned by Third Division Associate Justice Lovell Bautista, the CTA said Santos was absolved in the tax evasion case because she only underdeclared her income.
The CTA ordered Santos to pay over P3.4 million for her income tax deficiency for the year 2002, and an additional 20 percent interest every year as tax penalty and delinquency interest.
The case against Santos stemmed from her alleged inaccurate declaration of income derived from her talent fees and movie and product endorsements for taxable year 2002 in her Annual Income Tax Return filed with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
For its part, the BIR said it will be filing a separate petition to insist on the criminal aspect of the case against Santos. Tax evasion can be penalized with imprisonment, but the CTA merely found her to have underdeclared her income.
"It has always been the BIR's position that the tax code provides the presumption of fraud in cases of underdeclaration of 30-percent. Ms. Santos' underdeclaration exceeds 100 percent and the defense never submitted any evidence to disprove such presumption," the BIR said in a statement.
The BIR further noted the decision "reverses the 'willful blindness' doctrine espoused by the Court of Tax Appeals itself and affirmed by the Supreme Court."
Meanwhile, Santos told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview that she welcomes the decision of the CTA.
“Thankful ako na maganda ang bungad ng taon sa akin, daig pa ang Best Actress award. I can finally move on wiith my life. It’s an answered prayer. First of all, nabigyan ko ng peace of mind ang nanay ko,” she said.
Santos said she is ready to pay all her dues and she is also hoping that this ordeal will be over soon.
“Wala naman po akong planong takasan ang kahit anong gustong pabayaran sa akin. Wala po kasing katapat na presyo yung peace of mind, yung katahimikan ko at ng pamilya ko. Dasal ko na lang po talaga ngayon is sana matapos na talaga ng tuluyan,” she said.