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POGOs promise to pay tax starting this month

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By Chino S. Leyco

Operators of offshore gaming companies vowed to comply with Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III’s directive to settle their income tax, seen to reach at least P24 billion in additional annual collections, beginning this month.

 Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III (Bloomberg photo)

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III (Bloomberg photo)

This developed after the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) met with Dominguez where they agreed to settle the tax issue between the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and foreign nationals working in the online gaming industry.

Dominguez already estimated that the BIR would generate at least P2 billion in income taxes per month on every 100,000 foreigners in POGO.

To date, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. has licensed 55 POGO companies in the country, but only less than 50 are currently operating.
“I asked the BIR to track down how much they are collecting and will soon see compliance,” Dominguez said.

Sought for comment, Dominguez confirmed his discussion with the biggest offshore gaming operator in the country, saying it is “good” that POGOs promised to comply with his directive.

Dominguez, meanwhile, admitted that the BIR is having difficulty providing the estimated 10,000 tax identification numbers (TIN) being required by foreign workers.

“It’s not our fault, our computers are not ready for that ‘abnormal’ demand,” Dominguez said in a phone interview. “They are the ones who came here for work, they should have secured their TINs from the very beginning.”

“But just give us time, we will give their TINs,” the finance chief assured.
Aside from taxation, POGO stakeholders also discussed with the DOF chief the presence of unregistered offshore gaming operators in the country.

The industry estimated that there are roughly 30 unlicensed POGOs in the Philippines.

Dominguez said the government will run after unregistered POGOs once the BIR, along with other concerned agencies, identified the legitimate offshore gaming firms in the country.

“We will first find them because we’re not the ones who are regulating POGOs,” Dominguez said. “We will work together with law enforcement if there are indeed unregistered POGOs.”

“Let’s do this deliberately step-by-step. Whoever is registered should be compliant then we will look for the unregistered. Let’s not try to solve the whole problem right away, let’s solve the ones we have in front of us,” he added.

Dominguez said the DOF and the BIR have three goals — indentify the foreign workers, collect income tax, and run after those unregistered operators.

“We will catch them definitely, this is not a slow moving effort,” Dominguez.
POGO stakeholders believe tax collections from the industry can increase further once illegal operators are eradicated.

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