OFFSHORE gaming operators that are mostly Chinese companies that employ their own citizens are not exempted from tax even after these were classified as part of the business process outsourcing sector, the Finance department said on Tuesday.

“Classification does not exempt them from tax,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters in a Viber message.

The law must specifically give Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) tax exemptions, he said, citing the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

The local gaming regulator on Monday said offshore gaming operators in the country offer essential services and should be allowed to operate during the lockdown in Luzon amid a coronavirus pandemic.

The government would let them reopen provided they have paid their tax liabilities, Diane Erica Jogno, a senior offshore gaming officer at the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., (PAGCOR) said on Monday.

The country’s anti-coronavirus task force allowed offshore gaming operations here, mostly based in Metro Manila, to reopen with up to 30% of their workforce after they were classified as part of the outsourcing sector.

But the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines said at the weekend POGOs are not BPO companies, which are licensed by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). POGOs are under the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

In a statement, PAGCOR Assistant Vice-President for Offshore Gaming and Licensing Department Jose S. Tria, Jr. said POGO service providers are not exempted from tax because they are not registered with PEZA. — Beatrice M. Laforga