BIR Commissioner conducts first-ever nationwide raid vs illicit cigarette traders
Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. on Wednesday actively led the agency’s first-ever simultaneous nationwide raids against perpetrators of illicit cigarette trade, placing all regional enforcers on alert and in action while conducting operations on 378 stores in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
Authorities made good their earlier declaration of war against unscrupulous traders as they swooped down on 21 provinces and 69 cities and municipalities nationwide, specifically wholesalers and retailers that were selling illicit cigarettes and confiscated millions worth of illegal cigarettes that are untaxed, fake, and smuggled.
The government is losing P50 to P100 billion in tax revenues from the illicit tobacco trade, which is intended to fund basic services, including the Universal Health Care program and other national development goals.
The BIR chief thanked the cooperation and the assistance extended by the PNP and various local government units in their successful operations and at the same time lauded all the BIR regional officials for their concerted efforts.
Wednesday’s synchronized enforcement all over Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao was the first time with the BIR Commissioner leading the actions together with the OIC-Deputy Commissioner for Operations Maridur V. Rosario, the respective revenue regional directors, regional investigations chiefs, and revenue officers.
“Let me make this clear to you, illegal traders. This is just the beginning of our simultaneous nationwide operations. We are serious in our crackdown against the illicit cigarette trade. We will be strict on implementing the law from hereon,” Lumagui said.
Various Revenue regions in Luzon held a total of 195 simultaneous trade enforcements in Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales, Pampanga, Bulacan, Palawan, Rizal, Cavite, Cavite, and Manila. Likewise, authorities have launched 115 in Mindanao and 68 in Visayas.
In terms of the number of municipalities in a province, Zambales, Pangasinan, Negros Oriental, Eastern Samar, Agusan del Sur, North Cotabato, and Davao del Sur got the highest number of simultaneous raids.
But overall, Zamboanga City got the highest number of trade enforcements in a single locality with 38 operations. Records showed that Zamboanga City had been consistently on the list of “hotspot areas” in terms of cigarette smuggling and the sale of illegal cigarettes.
More than 100 raided stores were located in public markets selling various brands of illegal cigarettes at a wholesale price as low as P30 per pack. BIR is now preparing to file appropriate charges against the owners of the stores in violation of various offenses in relation to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997 and the BIR’s minimum price requirement, among others.
Owners of the raided stalls face offenses for collection of taxes, including surcharges and penalties for all the violations of the Tax Code including, but not limited to Sec. 145 on violation on the Floor or Minimum Prices, Sec. 254 on Attempt to Evade or Defeat Tax, Sec. 258 on Unlawful Possession or Removal of Articles Subject to Excise Tax Without Payment of the Tax, Sec. 264 on Failure to Issue Receipts, Sec. 265 on Offenses relating to tax stamps.
Under the BIR Minimum Price requirement, which pegged the price of cigarettes at P82.49 per pack, violators face a six-year jail term and a fine of P500,000.
Penalties for violating Sec. 145 is a fine of not less than 10 times the amount of excise tax and the VAT due but not less than P200,000 but not more than P500,000. Sec. 254 requires a fine of not less than P500,000 but not more than P10,000,000 and imprisonment of not less than six years but not more than 10 years.
Sec. 258, on the other hand, requires a fine of not less than P30,000 but not more than P50,000 and imprisonment of not less than two years but not more than four years. Sec. 263 has a fine of not more than 10 times the excise tax due on the articles found but not less than P1,000,000 and imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than eight years. Sec. 264 gives a fine of not less than P1,000 but not more than P50,000 and imprisonment of not less than two years but not more than four years.
Lastly, Sec. 265 requires a fine of not less than P10,000,000 but not more than P500,000,000 and imprisonment of not less than five years but not more than eight years.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.