By Chino S. Leyco
There will be no letup in the ongoing crackdown against tax-dodging Philippine offshore gaming operators (POGOs) under the Duterte administration, the Department of Finance (DOF) assured yesterday.
In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is relentless in scrutinizing the tax compliance of offshore gaming operators including their service providers in the country.
Dominguez explained sustained crackdown versus tax evading POGOs is necessary to safeguard the government’s revenue sources against leakages.
He added that errant POGO service providers that employ mostly foreign nationals should pay their unpaid income taxes with the BIR.
“Basically we’re going hard against people who are evading taxes,” Dominguez said, citing the POGO task force led by the BIR has so far temporarily shuttered the operations of at least three tax-evading operators.
Dominguez added the BIR collected an initial $25 million, or about ₱1.2 billion from one of these online gaming companies.
It is unfair to Filipino taxpayers dutifully paying their taxes for these POGOs to continue with their tax-dodging practices, he pointed out.
According to the BIR, it has so far collected ₱1.63 billion in withholding taxes from POGOs and their service providers covering the period from January to August this year.
These online gaming firms paid ₱175 million in withholding taxes in 2017 and ₱579 million in 2018.
BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa said the bureau has so far listed 218 POGOs and their service providers with a total of 108,914 foreign workers.
The BIR earlier ordered the temporary closure of the operations of the Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corp. (GEGAC) in September for failure to pay the correct amount of taxes to the government.
After initially paying ₱250 million, and the issuance of an undertaking to settle its remaining tax arrears of ₱1.050 billion in three separate monthly payments covered by postdated checks, GEGAC was allowed by the BIR to resume operations on September 27.
GEGAC was also required to update its withholding tax payments, and register its employees with the BIR.