BIR padlocks first POGO in crackdown

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Authorities shut down a big time Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO) provider in Quezon City, complying with the Finance chief’s ordered crackdown on gambling sites that refuse to pay taxes. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) — Authorities shut down a big time Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator (POGO), complying with the Finance Department's crackdown on gambling sites that refuse to pay taxes.

Pictures sent by the Finance Department showed officials from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Department of Finance entering the Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corporation (GEGAC) office in Eastwood City in Libis, Quezon City Wednesday morning.

GEGAC’s offices in Paranaque and Subic have also been closed, officials said.

Finance Assistant Secretary Tony Lambino said GECAC failed to register its employees for value-added tax (VAT) purposes.

“They are registered with the BIR for other types of taxes but not for VAT,” he said.

About 8,000 foreign nationals work for GECAC, Lambino added. He said GECAC also needs to comply with proper withholding of personal income taxes and remitting them.

“Filipino wage earners, their income taxes are withheld regularly and yet we have these foreign nationals na hindi withheld regularly ang kanilang income tax [these foreign nationals did not have their income tax withheld],” Lambino said.

On September 15, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez ordered to shut down all POGOs that have failed to settle their tax liabilities.

The BIR earlier reported that POGOs were slow in paying ₱21.62 billion in tax liabilities. POGO service providers paid ₱175 million in withholding taxes in 2017 and ₱579 million in 2018. From January to August 2019, the BIR collected ₱1.4 billion from POGOs, a 242 percent increase from last year’s collections.

In August, GEGAC was also one of the POGO hubs that received a notice of violation from the Quezon City government for failure to present business requirements, such as locational clearance, sanitary permit, environmental clearance, and employees’ occupational permits, among others.