BIR seeks public info on unregistered Pogos

Carlo Lorenciana

THE Bureau of Internal Revenue in Cebu (BIR 13) is seeking for public information on unregistered Philippine offshore gaming operators (Pogos) as it keeps an eye on this controversial booming sector.

BIR 13 regional director Eduardo Pagulayan said only one Pogo, which is located in Mactan Island, is currently registered with his office as a branch.

He said the tax bureau would welcome public knowledge on Pogos operating clandestinely so they’ll be tax mapped.

“As of now, there is only one Pogo registered with us as a branch and that is the one that is located in Mactan that was raided then by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group,” Pagulayan told SunStar Cebu Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2019.

He was referring to Chinese company Xin Huang Jin Chen Co. Ltd. Inc. (XHJC) which was raided by authorities last September.

The said firm operates at the Mactan Newtown in Lapu-Lapu City.

“The one registered with us is merely a branch and its head office is located in Davao. All internal revenue taxes are filed and paid by its head office in Davao that’s why I have no record of its payments here in Cebu,” he said, when asked what tax liabilities were imposed on this company.

Pagulayan said people who have first-hand knowledge of other Pogos operating in Cebu may disclose information to the BIR.

Such information will be treated with utmost confidentiality, he said.

On Tuesday, Malacañang said Pogos are subject to the country’s tax laws, whether registered as domestic or foreign companies.

Under the National Internal Revenue Code, the income of online casinos registered as domestic corporations is taxed as a whole while Pogos considered as foreign corporations are only taxed on income that is generated within the country.

In a statement, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo called on the Department of Finance and the BIR to evaluate the country’s tax laws to ensure that proper dues are imposed on Pogos.

“With this, we trust that the DOF, together with the BIR, has the competence to evaluate the respective charters and operations of these entities in order to subject them to Philippine taxes in accordance with the law,” he said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said Pogos must pay corporate income taxes and their workers’ personal income taxes.

In 2017, the BIR issued a circular taxing Pogos licensed by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

Joey Bondoc, senior research manager at Colliers International Philippines, said the move to regulate the operations of offshore gaming operators should ensure the sustainability of this growing sector, which is gaining ground in Cebu.

“Though we believe that these measures by BIR are meant to regulate the operations of Pogos in Cebu, these steps should help ensure the sustainability of Pogo operations in the city,” he said.