Finance chief wants gov’t to shut down POGOs that don’t pay taxes

CNN Philippines Staff

The Finance Department has ordered the tax bureau to close down all Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGOs) that have failed to settle tax liabilities.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez issued the order to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) after learning that POGOs are slow in paying P21.62 billion in tax liabilities.

“Why don’t we start closing them down so they will answer these assessments,” Dominguez said during an interagency meeting on Friday. “Those who don’t pay or respond to your assessments, clamp them down.”

The BIR has reportedly sent 130 letter-notices to the concerned firms, but Dominguez noted that the collection of POGO workers’ withholding taxes has been moving at a “slow pace.”

Dominguez instructed the BIR to ensure that the payment be made for each foreign worker and to reject any lump sum offers.

“The collection should be per individual,” the Finance chief told the BIR. “You force the issue and you bring them to court. I mean, close them down.”

BIR deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa, however, said the BIR cannot do the job of padlocking errant POGOs alone, and asked the assistance of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) in closing down errant POGOs.

POGOs are known to have recruited many Chinese nationals, thousands of whom are working in the country illegally — without proper documentation and without paying the correct taxes.

The BIR reported that POGO service providers paid 175 million in withholding taxes in 2017 and P579 million in 2018. From January to August 2019, the BIR collected P1.4 billion from POGOs, a 242 percent increase from last years’ collections.

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