DOF: Gov’t to collect P32B in unpaid taxes a year from foreign Pogo workers
MANILA, Philippines — The government is going after about P32 billion in unpaid income taxes from foreigners who work in the Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogo) sector, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Monday.
Citing a rough calculation by Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, the DOF said that if the 138,001 foreign workers earned an average of $1,500 per month and paid the 25-percent personal income tax, the government can collect P32 billion in additional revenues.
Based on the report submitted to Dominguez by the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) and Bureau of Immigration (BI) last week, 54,241 Pogo workers had been issued alien employment permits (AEPs) on top of 83,760 who have special working permits (SWPs).
But Dominguez said the reported salaries of foreign Pogo employees amounting only about P20,000 a month were “ridiculously low,” as the Finance chief pointed out that they were skilled workers.
Also, the names of the foreign workers in the Dole and the BI’s list had no tax identification numbers (TIN), Dominguez said.
The DOF quoted Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Deputy Commissioner Ariel Guballa as saying that the country’s biggest tax-collection agency “will start working on the list to check how many years these workers have been here in the country and whether they have paid taxes for the last two taxable years.”
“The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) has so far submitted a list of 126 out of 205 Pogos, which employ a total of 53,239 foreign workers with an average salary of about P41,000 each,” Guballa said.
Pagcor policy division senior manager Victor Padilla was quoted by DOF as saying that “penalties and demerits will be issued to those that have yet to comply with the requirement for them to submit the lists of their respective foreign workers,” while the gaming regulator will also “seize the operations of those that remain non-compliant despite repeated warnings.”
However, Dominguez said he has “a suspicion that this figure [of foreign Pogo workers] is low” since the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) and other special economic zones in Aurora and Bataan have yet to submit their list of foreign workers.
As such, DOF said Dominguez asked Dole and BI “to find ways to reconcile the list by physically checking the establishments where these foreign workers have been hired.”
“Enforce the law so we can collect the tax,” the Finance chief said.
BI already committed to no longer renew these foreign workers’ visas unless they submit proof that they paid their correct income taxes.
However, Dominguez said BI’s move “will only apply to workers with valid work permits and does not cover those without proper documentation; hence, the need to physically check establishments for compliance.”
For BIR Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay, “one way to track down foreign workers is for the bureau to get a list of corporations and immediately audit them,” DOF said.
As such, BIR “will check both the companies paying the salaries of foreign nationals and countercheck these with their respective lists of employees,” Guballa said.
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