THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said it expects tax collections from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) to increase further following the closure of the first firm found to be evading taxes.

Deputy Commissioner for Operations Arnel SD. Guballa said withholding tax collections grew to P1.6 billion as of August, rising about P200 million from the P1.4 billion initially reported initial report. September totals will only be released this month but Mr. Guballa said an improvement is already apparent.

“Our collection is improving because they know that we’re doing enforcement. Kasi sabi ko nag-lapse na yung dialogue with them (the time for dialogue has lapsed). We sent them notices and they are not complying, so we did the raid,” Mr. Guballa told reporters last week.

Citing data collected from PAGCOR and other agencies, he said the official count of foreign workers is 108,914, in 218 POGO offices across the country.

He also said the BIR has seen more compliance in withholding taxes remittance by the industry after the shutdown of Great Empire Gaming and Amusement Corp. (GEGAC).

Days after the closure, BIR lifted GEGAC’s suspension after it agreed to settle a total of P1.3 billion within the year and assured that it will comply with registration requirements as well as withhold taxes from its foreign workers.

BIR Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay said that he expects POGO firms to voluntarily comply and should not wait to be closed down.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said BIR’s tax enforcement efforts will ultimately help other agencies such as the Bureau of Immigration and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

“You know, the work of BIR is going to help PAGCOR, it’s going to help the Bureau of Immigration, its going to help DoLE,” Mr. Dominguez said.

Mr. Dominguez has estimated foregone revenue from POGO non-compliance at about P2 billion a month for every 100,000 POGO workers left unregistered, based on uncollected withholding taxes on their salaries. — Beatrice M. Laforga