THE Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Thursday filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) 69 cases of tax evasion, amounting to at least P1.8 billion, against illicit cigarette traders caught selling untaxed, fake and smuggled cigarettes during the agency’s first simultaneous raids in January 2023 in different parts of the country.
BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui said the government is losing around P50 billion to P100 billion due to the illegal activity. The money could have been used to fund health services and various government projects.
“The total exposure we have filed today, including the penalties and fines, amounts to P1.8 billion based on the result of our nationwide raids that we conducted last January 25 against illegal cigarette [traders]. Again, it was the first ever nationwide operation in the BI history,” Lumagui pointed out.
Lumagui warned that the agency would continue its campaign against illegal cigarette traders by conducting more raids and filing cases.
He added that BIR would focus on Zamboanga City and Pampanga, two provinces considered “hotspots” for smuggling of cigarettes.
The BIR’s nationwide raids in January covered 378 stores in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Lumagui said all the revenue regions of the BIR participated in the nationwide raids since illicit cigarettes are considered a nationwide concern of the BIR.
“After the first BIR nationwide raid of illicit cigarette stores and warehouses last January 2023, we are now filing 69 criminal cases against the possessors and owners for tax evasion. This is a warning against all illicit traders. The BIR will not only raid your stores and warehouse, we will also file criminal cases against you. This will not be the last,” he added.
Lumagui also said the BIR is looking into the sources of the cigarettes being sold illegally across the country, noting that a big syndicate may be the one supplying these sellers.
The BIR is also determining the locations of factories where the counterfeit cigarettes are being smuggled.
“The BIR protects the Philippine economy by levelling the playing filed. Everybody has to pay taxes. Traders of cigarettes, vape, petroleum, and other goods subject to taxes have to register with the BIR and pay their taxes,” Lumagui reminded taxpayers.
“Failure to do so would force us to raid your stores and file criminal cases against you. We are in constant surveillance of your businesses. Not only will you have to pay your taxes with penalties and surcharges, but you will also lose your freedom,” he added.