Duterte certifies urgency of bill taxing POGOs

Published May 31, 2021, 5:32 PM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

President Duterte has certified as urgent the Senate bill that seeks to allow the government to enforce improved tax collection on Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs).

President Duterte (File photo/Malacañang)

In a statement, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque confirmed that Duterte certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 2232, entitled “An Act Taxing Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations, Amending for the Purpose Sections 22, 25, 27, 28 and Adding a New Section 125-A of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, As Amended, and For Other Purposes.”

According to Roque, the Palace is hopeful that this law would not only generate revenue but will place POGOs under the government’s strict scrutiny.

“We hope that through this measure we would not only generate the much-needed revenues in the country but also place the industry under stricter government oversight,” he said.

The measure seeks to address a number of lingering issues on POGO taxation. POGO licensees claim they are not required to register and pay taxes since their income does not come from within the Philippines.

It also requires all offshore gaming licensees, whether Philippine or foreign-based, to pay a five-percent gaming tax on the gross gaming revenue or receipts derived from their gaming operations. The gaming tax will be in lieu of all taxes.

Meanwhile, foreign nationals employed by POGO licensees and service providers will be subject to the 25-percent withholding tax, considering they are not engaged in trade or business within the Philippines.

Senator Pia Cayetano, who sponsored the Senate bill, said this week that the measure can generate additional revenues more than the P7.18 billion collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) from POGOs last year.

She said the government could have collected much more from POGOs if there were explicit tax provisions pertaining to offshore gaming in the National Internal Revenue Code.

The lawmaker pointed out that the government could have collected more than P38 billion in 2019 alone. Only P6.42 billion were collected by the government from POGOs that year.

The regulation and taxation of POGOs started when the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) provided the rules and regulations on September 1, 2016.

The Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) Act mandated POGOs to pay a five-percent tax on gross bets or turnovers. However, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the said provisions in January.