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69 tax evasion complaints filed by BIR against illegal cigarette dealers

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Thursday filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) 69 tax evasion charges against illicit traders who were caught selling untaxed, fake, and smuggled cigarettes.

In an interview, BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. said the cases stemmed from the first-ever nationwide raids conducted by the agency last January 25 in different parts of the country.

โ€œThe total exposure we have filed today, including the penalties and fines, amounts to PHP1.8 billion based on the result of our nationwide raids against illegal cigarette [traders]. Again, it was the first nationwide operation in the BI history,โ€ he said.

378 stores in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were subject to the BIR’s nationwide raids in January.

All BIR revenue regions took part in the nationwide raid, according to Lumagui, because the agency views the illegal cigarette trade as a national concern.

The BIR chief noted that the government loses around PHP50 billion to PHP100 billion due to illegal cigarette trade, which should have been put to better use to fund health services and needed infrastructure.

He stated that the BIR would continue its campaign against illegal cigarette traffickers by conducting additional raids and filing more charges.

โ€œThis 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,โ€ he said.

The BIR is looking into the sources of the cigarettes being sold illegally across the nation, according to Lumagui, who also noted that a large syndicate may be providing these dealers.

He claimed that Zamboanga City and Pampanga, two provinces regarded as “hotspots” for the smuggling of cigarettes, will be among the focus areas.

He added the BIR is also determining the whereabouts of factories where counterfeit cigarettes are being created.

โ€œThe BIR protects the Philippine economy by leveling the playing field. Taxes are a necessity for everyone. Lumagui reminded taxpayers that traders of cigarettes, vape, gasoline, and other items subject to taxes must register with the BIR and pay their taxes.

“If you don’t, we’ll have to search your stores and bring charges against you. We keep an eye on your companies all the time. You will forfeit your freedom and have to pay your taxes through penalties and surcharges, according to Lumagui.

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