Taxmen hone focus on select goods amid anti-smuggling drive

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Taxmen hone focus on select goods amid anti-smuggling drive
Customs men use tax stamp readers in their checks on cigarettes for sale. -- BW FILE PHOTO

THE GOVERNMENT has ordered taxmen “to train their sights” on certain commodities as it steps up its crackdown on big-time smugglers, the Department of Finance (DoF) said in a statement yesterday.

The press release said Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III ordered Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña and Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay to “focus on rice, fuel, steel, cigarettes and other food and agricultural product such as chicken, onions and garlic in beefing up the governments’ efforts to combat smuggling.”

He issued the directive after Mr. Lapeña last week briefed DoF’s Executive Committee, which Mr. Dominguez heads, on a planned task force with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) that will step up the government’s drive against big-time smugglers.

“I think you should focus on fuel, rice and other agricultural products, including chicken, onions, garlic,” the statement quoted Mr. Dominguez as telling Messrs. Lapeña and Dulay.

“And then there is steel, and then cigarettes. I’m sure the smuggling of cigarettes will go up now.”

Mr. Dominguez noted that after Mighty Corp. closed operations as part of its agreement with the government to settle its tax liabilities, he has been receiving reports of cigarette smuggling as illegal traders rush in to fill the void left by the company, which had sold tobacco products at rock-bottom prices, the statement explained.

“Mighty had managed to sell its cigarettes at low prices because of the use of fake tax stamps, which was uncovered by the government through a joint operation by the BoC (Bureau of Customs) and the BIR,” DoF said in its statement.

The company settled its liabilities in income and deficiency excise taxes by paying P25 billion to the government. Total liabilities are expected to reach over P30 billion when the value-added tax and other fees are factored in, the department said.

Mr. Dominguez, who had described Mighty’s payment as the “biggest tax settlement” in the country’s history, in August ordered both bureaus to nab and build cases against big-time tax evaders that could each add P20-30 billion to state coffers. — EJCT