Villanueva on taxing online sellers: Hindi na natin natulungan, bubuwisan pa natin

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Cast your tax nets on the big fish, not on the small fry. Senator Joel Villanueva has prodded the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to prioritize the collection of back taxes from sectors like the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) which owes at least P50 billion, to raise much-needed government revenue.

With massive layoffs contributing to the spike in unemployment, Villanueva credited the entrepreneurial spirit of online sellers for defying the odds and trying to survive through the different things they hawk on social media and shopping apps.

“Alam po natin na kailangan ng ating gobyerno na kumulekta ng buwis. Unahin po natin yung mga napatunayan nang atrasado sa pagbabayad ng buwis. Hanggang ngayon, hindi pa rin nababayaran ng mga POGO ang utang nito na P50 bilyon na buwis sa atin. Sila ang dapat tinututukan ng BIR,” Villanueva said in a statement.

The lawmaker, who chairs the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment, and Human Resources Development, also called on the BIR to intensify its information campaign to encourage MSMEs to register with the BIR, the benefits of doing so and the taxes applicable to them. Under the TRAIN Law, a sole proprietorship earning Php250,000 or less is not subject to tax.

Villanueva pointed out that the government has seemingly bent over backwards in urging POGO firms to pay their unpaid taxes, but their call has fallen on deaf ears.

As a condition to resume its operations, POGOs must settle taxes it owes the government, including a notarized commitment to pay its arrears in previous years, according to the BIR’s Revenue Memorandum Circular No. 46-2020 issued on May 7, 2020.

But two weeks after the memo’s release, BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa was quoted in media reports as saying that no POGO firms or their service providers have come forward to settle their tax obligations.

“Ang dami nang pagkakataon ang ibinibigay ng gobyerno sa mga POGO para ituwid ang kanilang operasyon. Malinaw po na winawaldas lang nila itong pagkakataon,” Villanueva said. “Ganitong pagkakataon po dapat ang ibinibigay rin natin sa mga mamamayan natin, lalo na sa mga online sellers na nakikipagsapalaran ngayon.”

“Pasalamat po tayo at likas na ma-diskarte ang ating mga kababayan. Hindi na nga po natin nabigyan ng tulong ang karamihan, bubuwisan pa natin yung mga nais maghanapbuhay ng marangal,” Villanueva lamented. “Dapat tutukan ng BIR ang pagkolekta ng utang na buwis mula sa mga POGO. Unahin po natin ang kapakanan ng mga kababayan natin.”

At least three illegal POGO operations were busted by police during the enhanced community quarantine in Paranaque, Makati, and Las Pinas, arresting over 450 foreigners and confiscating hundreds of gadgets and about P7 million in cash.

Police raided two illegal POGO operations in Bacoor, Cavite and Quezon City days after Metro Manila and nearby provinces were placed under general community quarantine. Over 240 foreigners were arrested in the separate busts.