he Philippines’ gaming regulator is against initiatives to grant additional benefits to online gaming firms based in tax-shielded special economic zones, saying instead that all Philippine offshore gaming operations, or POGOs, should be treated uniformly.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) chair and CEO Andrea Domingo said Wednesday the regulator is pushing for a level playing field in the online gaming industry regardless of where these firms operate from.
“Special means special,” she said, as reported by Philippine Daily Inquirer. “In government there shall be no such thing. All policies, regulations and laws should be uniformly applied.”
Domingo's statement followed reports that the bill seeking to regulate POGOs, including the imposition of a unified tax system, is being stalled in Congress due to lobbying to include provisions that would restore tax advantages to special economic zones.
The POGO bill, meant to end the controversy over the taxation of the online gaming industry, was completed in the House of Representatives last February and the Senate last June. The House leadership agreed to adopt the Senate’s version to skip the reconciliation process through the bicameral conference committee.
Currently, the POGO bill has yet to be ratified by Congress despite commitments by House leaders and President Rodrigo Duterte’s move certifying the proposed tax on POGOs as an urgent measure.
Domingo said she also supports the POGO tax bill, saying the regulator evaluated the measure and determined that the proposed tax scheme is the proper way of settling the long-running issue. Domingo supports the Senate version which directs the revenues to be raised for the public health care system, saying the measure is “fair and good” for the government, the public and gaming firms.
Once enacted by the President into law, the Bureau of Internal Revenue will impose a 5% tax on gross gaming receipts for offshore gaming licensees and a 25% tax on gross income for nonresident aliens working for POGO service providers. The government will also impose a 25% withholding tax on foreigners employed by offshore gambling licensees and service providers. A minimum final withholding tax of P12,500 for any taxable month is also mandated.