BIR to look into ‘Panama papers’
MANILA — The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will look into reports that a number of Filipinos and local firms were among those on the so-called “Panama papers” list of people linked to offshore financial dealings of the rich and famous.
“I have not read the Panama papers yet. If ever, it is a guide for the BIR where to look to determine if there is any tax liability or not” among those personalities and companies listed down, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares said in a text message Tuesday.
“This is where the global standard requiring exchange of information with regard to tax matters will come in to provide assistance,” Henares added.
The reports state the names of Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and her three sons were in the Panama papers—based on documents from a law firm in the Central American country—released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) last Monday.
Also on the list of the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database was Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, a son of ousted President Joseph Estrada.
The ICIJ’s new investigation revealed leaked internal files containing information on 214,488 offshore entities connected to people in more than 200 countries and territories.
The ICIJ, however, noted that it “do[es] not intend to suggest or imply that any persons, companies or other entities included in the ICIJ Offshore Leaks Database have broken the law or otherwise acted improperly.”
According to Henares, “the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Global Forum on Exchange of Information requires a jurisdiction to provide information to other jurisdictions with regard to tax matters, otherwise they will be blacklisted.”
“That is why it is not correct to say that tax haven countries will not be able to provide assistance,” Henares said.
The Philippines is among the 132 members of the OECD-led Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes, which on its website claims it is “the premier international body for ensuring the implementation of the internationally agreed standards of transparency and exchange of information in the tax area.”
Panama, a tax haven, is also a member of the Global Forum.
But in an April 4 statement, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said “just a few weeks ago, we told G20 finance ministers that Panama was back-tracking on its commitment to automatic exchange of financial account information.”
“The consequences of Panama’s failure to meet the international tax transparency standards are now out there in full public view. Panama must put its house in order, by immediately implementing these standards,” the OECD said.
Last year, Henares said the Philippines has joined 89 countries that would implement the OECD-led “Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information in Tax Matters” or Common Reporting Standard (CRS).
The OECD earlier said over 50 countries “have committed to a specific and ambitious timetable leading to the first automatic information exchanges in 2017.”
In the case of the Philippines, the CRS will be implemented by 2018, according to Henares.
The BIR already has an ongoing pilot project with the Australian Taxation Office to help the Philippines prepare for it, Henares had said. SFM
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