BOC to examine rice traders’ books amid undervaluation allegations
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is set to begin a full audit of all entities engaged in rice trading on the back of reports there might have been traders who undervalued their rice shipments to avoid paying higher taxes.
BOC Assistant Commissioner Vincent Maronilla said in a phone interview with the Inquirer they would distribute notification letters to traders and importers next week, with the audit expected to start at the end of the month.
The Department of Finance said the BOC was able to meet its target to collect P5.9 billion in tariffs from rice shipments in the first four months since the passage of the rice tariffication law, running counter to assertions from the Federation of Free Farmers that the government might have lost billions in forgone revenues due to undervaluations.
“The tariffs were based on reference prices that the BOC puts in place in consultation with the relevant agencies … What was used [by the industry group] were FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) international market prices but the BOC has its own reference price,” Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said in a roundtable discussion with the Inquirer on Wednesday.
“Based on that, the agency’s collection should be P5.9 billion. We looked at historical data, how much usually is the price for these different rice variants and lo and behold, the collection is exactly that,” he added.
Nonetheless, Maronilla said the agency “would not be discounting any possible [cases of undervaluation]” and would go further than what the preliminary data showed.
If undervaluation is proven, Maronilla said the traders would incur a minimum penalty of 125 percent to a maximum of 600 percent of the amount they failed to pay for the rice shipments.
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