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Government loses P25 billion revenues from illicit cigarette trade

Keisha Ta-Asan - The Philippine Star
Government loses P25 billion revenues from illicit cigarette trade
Counterfeit cigarette products are seen in this file photo.
Miguel De Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said revenue losses from the illicit cigarette trade stood at P25.5 billion in 2023 and P6.6 billion as of April this year.

BIR chief of excise large taxpayers field operations division Venus Gaticales said revenue from excise taxes declined by P25.5 billion or 15.9 percent in 2023 mainly due to illicit trade.

The BIR also recorded P6.6 billion revenue losses from January to April compared to the same period a year ago.

“The Philippines is an archipelagic country, (there are) so many open borders. So, I think border control should be tightened by the government and (implement) efficient tax administration,” she said.

“As far as the BIR is concerned, we have a lesser workforce and we are not in charge of manning the borders. We will be only conducting enforcement activities when (the products) are inland or within the Philippines already,” she said.

She noted that there are several kinds of illicit trade, which includes selling counterfeit products.

Gaticales also attributed the revenue losses to the shift to electric cigarettes or vape, which has become a fad especially among the youth.

“Vape (products) are mostly imported so we could not really determine how much was smuggled. What we are only doing is enforcement if these products are inland,” Gaticales said.

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