Probe of ‘undervalued’ Del Monte taxes sought

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Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez of Davao del Norte on Friday called on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to investigate alleged undervaluation of tax liabilities of pineapple giant Del Monte Philippines Inc.

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Alvarez was referring to the P65.4-million tax dues of Del Monte even if there has been a reported assessment that Del Monte’s tax liabilities amount to as much as P29 billion.

“Why can’t the BIR collect that P29 billion instead of proposing new taxes under the tax reform bill, particularly on petroleum products?” Alvarez said in a radio interview.

There is a pending plunder complaint filed before the Ombudsman against BIR Commissioner Caesar Dulay and 17 other officials and personnel in connection with alleged reduction of the tax liabilities of Del Monte.

The plunder complaint filed by Danilo Lihaylihay said Del Monte was taxed with P21 billion for 2011 but this was lowered to P14 billion when Dulay assumed office and after a supposedly anomalous reinvestigation.

It was alleged that for 2012, Del Monte paid only P20 million for a tax assessment worth P3.43 billion, and that for 2013, the tax was purportedly reduced to P30.3 million from the assessed amount of P5.2 billion.

Del Monte has denied the purported tax irregularities covering 2011 to 2013 as alleged in the plunder complaint.

“We need better tax collection, and its clear that we have taxes yet to collect which can fund government projects. The House Committee on Ways and Means can inquire into the matter jointly with the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability,” Alvarez said.

Under the proposed tax reform bill of the Duterte administration, all those earning P250,000 and below annually will be exempted from paying income taxes.

The same bill, however, also hikes excise taxes on all fuels by P6 to P10 per liter and increases prices of sugar-sweetened beverages by around 140 percent.

Other lawmakers backing the Del Monte probe are Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, head of the good government panel, and Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list.

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