Hold your horses: Filipinos not necessarily in Panama Papers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Hold your horses.

Contrary to reports of some Philippine news agencies, it remains to be seen if Filipinos figured in the Panama Papers — a massive leak of financial records containing the alleged offshore accounts of influential people across the world.

Related: 7 things to know about the Panama Papers

The documents were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) from an anonymous source by a German newspaper. The data include prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, the president of Ukraine, and the king of Saudi Arabia, ICIJ said. A full list of parties involved in the Panama Papers has not yet been released. The consortium said it will publish one in early May.

So far, ICIJ's Panama Papers website makes no mention of the Philippines, Filipinos, or Philippine corporations.

The "more than 500" Filipinos mentioned in the misleading reports come from a much older and entirely different database of the ICIJ: the Offshore Leaks Database (OLD). Records in the OLD cover data over three decades up to 2010.

In contrast to the Panama Papers' haul of over 11.5 million documents, the OLD is a "small part of a cache of 2.5 million leaked offshore files."

Not necessarily illegal

"There are legitimate uses for offshore companies and trusts. We do not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly," the ICIJ explains in its website.

Similarly, Tax Management Association of the Philippines President Benedict Tugonon said that there are legitimate ways of having offshore companies.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines, the lawyer said that such companies are only illegal if the funds placed in them come from illicit sources such as corruption or theft.

Doing so is a form of money laundering — the act of disguising 'dirty' money to look 'clean.' Money becomes dirty when it is acquired illegally, such as when it is given as bribes, stolen, or used in the illegal drug trade.

Read: Prosecutors open probes as world's wealthy deny 'Panama Papers' links

In terms of tax compliance, Tugonon explained that offshore companies are not necessarily used as tax havens. He explained in Filipino that income from the fund can only be taxable if the beneficiary is a resident of the Philippines and an amount is paid to him or her.

"Just like investing in a corporation, local man o foreign, kikita ka lang kung mag-distribute ng dividends ang corporation o may ibinayad sa iyo."

[Translation: "Just like investing in a corporation, whether it is local or foreign, you will only profit if the corporation distributes dividends or pays you."]

He explained in Filipino that individual owners are subsequently responsible for reporting their income to tax authorities if they receive such funds from their offshore companies.

Watch: Panama Papers raise questions about Putin

In terms of enforcement, the Bureau of Internal Revenue does not have jurisdiction over offshore companies. "Diyan nagkakaroon ng challenge." [Translation: "That is where the challenge arises."]

"There are probably enterprising people out there who would capitalize on the inability of tax authorities to after foreign companies. These companies are used as a means to avoid paying taxes from their fund's income," he explained in Filipino.