The government said Monday it will soon complete the list of foreign nationals working in Philippine offshore gaming operations with the goal of collecting over P22 billion in annual income taxes from them.
Members of an interagency task force presided by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III discussed several measures to complete the foreign workers’ list after they discovered gaps or inconsistencies in the respective figures they initially submitted.
The task force agreed to meet again with the Finance chief on March 29 to come up with the complete list.
“There are still gaps in the numbers and we need to close those gaps. In our computations, there is at least P22 billion a year not being collected in the income taxes from these Pogo workers who could possibly exceed 100,000 in number,” Dominguez said during the meeting held at the Department of Finance central office in Manila.
He said the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Department of Labor and Employment, the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Immigration and various special economic zones needed to come up with a comprehensive list of foreign workers in Pogos.
“We have to get a clear picture here. If we do not have that, how can the BIR [Bureau of Internal Revenue] do its job which is to collect taxes from everybody so that we are being fair to all Filipinos who are paying their taxes?” Dominguez said.
BIR deputy commissioner Arnel Guballa said an initial 64 out of 205 service providers of Pogos showed that they employed a total of 33,000 foreign workers or an average of 515 per service provider.
He said with 515 foreign workers employed in about 200 service providers, the government should be collecting income taxes from about 103,000 foreigners working here.
Guballa said the BIR also came across a newspaper report in China stating that foreign workers in Pogos here were receiving an average of 10,000 yuan or about $1,500 or P78,000 a month.
Dominguez said with an average income tax of 25 percent of their salaries, this would yield an estimated P18,750 a month which was left uncollected by the BIR from each foreign worker. This would mean P22.5 billion in foregone income tax revenues a year, he said.
The rough computation does not include allowances and other fringe benefits which are also taxable, Dominguez said.
He asked Pagcor to resolve this estimate and the claim by Pogo service providers that these foreign workers were paid an average of P35,800 or about 5,000 yuan a month, representing only about $700 a month.
“We have to go after these guys because they are not paying taxes. Simple,” Dominguez said. “We hope that everybody will be 100-percent cooperative here so that these guys can get their taxes collected,” he said.
He said a worker from China would not leave his country to work here if he would just get―as Pagcor reported―$700 a month or around P35,800 which was just a third above the minimum daily wage, given that they had special skills as Pogo employees.
Dominguez also learned that foreign workers in Pogos might also be present in special economic zones such as those in Bataan, Clark, and Aurora which are allowed to operate online gaming operations in Makati City.