By Chino S. Leyco
State-run Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) said yesterday that all foreign nationals working at its licensed offshore gambling companies are registered with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
In a briefing, Andrea Domingo, Pagcor chairman also said that the Department of Finance’s (DOF) initial estimate of potential revenues from foreign workers in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry is overstated.
According to the Pagcor chief, all 57 POGOs are legally operating with tax identification numbers (BIR) and have been regularly paying corporate as well as personal income taxes with the government.
Based on Pagcor’s monitoring, there are about 150,000 foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, in the Philippines working in the POGO sector who are earning around $200 to $2,500 a month, a far cry from the DOF’s estimated average salary of $2,500 per month.
“The average salary is only P14,000 and a monthly earning of P20,000 and below is exempted from withholding tax,” Domingo explained. “Those who are earning $2,500 are the presidents or executives of POGOs, an ordinary employee can’t earn that much here.”
“We are estimating that the potential revenues from personal income taxes is around P8 billion annually, not P3 billion a month as estimated by the DOF,” she added.
Domingo said they have already submitted their report to the BIR and DOF.
Earlier, Pagcor warned offshore gaming operators and service providers that they will be penalized once found their companies are employing undocumented foreign nationals.
“Employing undocumented foreign workers by licensed operations and their accredited service providers is a violation warranting imposition of demerits, fines and other administrative penalties, without prejudice to suspension of operations and/or cancellation of license or accreditation,” Pagcor said in a statement.
The DOF earlier asked for a consolidated and reconciled report by the various government agencies and offices involved in screening, providing work permits and registration of foreign workers in the POGO sector.
The report was asked by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III after the BI) discovered that only eight out of 44 offshore operators are registered with the tax agency.
Dominguez estimated that the government is losing at least P3 billion a month due to uncollected personal income taxes from foreigners working in the POGO industry.
On Wednesday, Pagcor has entered into a mutual cooperation agreement with the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Immigration, and the Office of Cybercrime in a fight against illegal online gambling in the country.