THE American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (AmCham) supports President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent initiative against goods bearing counterfeit tax stamps.
Since late last year, the media has been publishing reports of tobacco products with fake tax stamps in country, the chamber said.
The tax stamps may be used in various products abroad and smuggled into the Philippines without paying correct import duties and excise taxes. Alternatively, they could be applied by domestic manufacturers in disregard of Philippine internal revenue regulations. The country has a history of such tax avoidance schemes, the chamber noted.
Earlier this month, Philippine authorities raided warehouses and discovered large quantities of cigarettes with fake tax stamps.
According to the Department of Finance (DOF), Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon reported over P2 billion ($$40-million) worth of smuggled and counterfeit tobacco products were seized in Pampanga, General Santos and Zamboanga.
Using Mobile Verification Devices, agents of the Bureau of Internal Revenue found the tax stamps on cigarette packs were faked.
Raids in Cebu and Tacloban also yielder cigarettes with bogus tax stamps.
“If the evidence warrants, I urge the BIR and the BOC to file the appropriate charges in court as soon as possible,” Dominguez said early this month.
President Duterte raised the possibility of settling the tax liability of cigarette maker Mighty Corp.
But Dominguez clarified that a case will be filed against the company. “As soon as we get all the evidence, of course, we will file a case . . . It’s our duty to do so.”
According to the Tax Code, “Any manufacturer, owner or person in charge of any article subject to excise tax who removes or allows or causes the unlawful removal of any such articles from the place of production or bonded warehouse, upon which the excise tax has not been paid at the time and in the manner required, and any person who knowingly aids or abets in the removal of such articles as aforesaid, or conceals the same after illegal removal shall, for the first offense, be punished with a fine of not less than 10 times the amount of excise tax due on the articles but not less than P1,000 and suffer imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than two years.”
The AmCham encourages the government to proceed vigorously to investigate the case against the company, as the recent seizures may be the tip of the iceberg of tax evasion going back several years. “Based on the investigation, we call upon the government to prosecute the case for tax evasion and attempted bribery,” it said.