BIR files P1.8B tax evasion case against cigarette traders

At least 69 cases of tax evasion amounting to P1.8 billion were filed by the Bureau of Internal Revenue yesterday at the Department of Justice against cigarette traders who were caught selling untaxed, fake and smuggled cigarettes during the agency’s simultaneous raids conducted last January 2023 in different parts of the country.

According to BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui, who led the filing yesterday, the government is losing around P50 billion to P100 billion due to the illegal activity.

“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,” he said.

The BIR chief said the agency will continue its campaign against illegal cigarette traders by conducting more raids and filing more cases.

He added that the BIR would focus on Zamboanga City and Pampanga as the two provinces are considered “hotspots” for cigarette smuggling.

The BIR’s nationwide raids last January covered 378 stores in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

“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,” said Lumagui.

“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,” he added.

“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 warned.

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