BIR shuts registered POGO with ₱114-M unpaid taxes

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A POGO franchise holder has been shut down by the Bureau of Internal Revenue for failing to pay ₱114 million taxes for 2019.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — A big player in the offshore gaming sector has been shut down by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for failing to pay its 2019 taxes.

In a statement on Friday, the BIR said it served a closure order against Synchronization Anywhere For You, Inc., which is one of the 60 licensed companies in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) industry.

The agency said the company owed ₱114 million to the government, representing its franchise tax worth 5 percent of its gross gaming receipts last year.

READ: House panel approves bill setting 5% tax on POGOs

Members of the BIR's Task Force POGO padlocked the company's office at the Eastfield Center inside the Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has ordered a crackdown on POGOs not paying their dues, and has been sending demand letters through the BIR. The agency estimates about ₱2 billion in monthly income taxes are uncollected from foreign workers in this sector.

This is the first time for an actual POGO license holder to be shuttered, as companies previously shut down by BIR are mere service providers that serve as back-end offices for these online gambling hubs.

READ: ₱6.42-B taxes seized from erring POGOs in 2019

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation stopped accepting new applications for POGO licenses in August, amid growing concerns about tax evasion, lost job opportunities for Filipinos, and even national security.

Senators have been exploring the possibility of banning POGOs for good, saying that these companies bring more harm than good amid reported increase in prostitution, human trafficking, and even kidnapping of foreign employees.

RELATED: Rescued POGO worker tags 'very powerful' backer in gov't 

The Bureau of Immigration is under fire after a whistleblower revealed a scheme that allowed Chinese nationals, mostly POGO workers, to enter the country with ease by paying ₱10,000 in grease money. President Rodrigo Duterte relieved 19 Immigration employees from their posts pending investigation.