Online sellers, influencers must pay taxes: BIR

A stall in Quezon City uses various online platforms to sell various Christmas decorations on September 1, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is in talks with e-commerce giants like Lazada and Shopee about collecting taxes for online sellers.

At the Philippine E-Commerce Summit in Pasay, BIR Commissioner Lilia Guillermo reiterated that all sellers must pay taxes, including those in the digital economy. However, she noted that many have yet to do so.

“There are initial sightings and findings na talaga maraming (that there are many that were) inconsistent,” Guillermo revealed.

She urges online shopping platforms to provide them with data so that the appropriate taxes can be collected.

Guillermo said some platforms are still considering the move because it could violate privacy laws.

“My strategy is to at least… [make a] memorandum of understanding with the Data Protection Commission [that] giving data to BIR is not a privacy issue,” Guillermo said as a solution to the problem.

She also mentioned that social media influencers, whether individuals or companies, have to pay income tax and value added tax.

The BIR may soon issue a memo urging voluntary registration for influencers and those who earn online.

“Kung ayaw nila mag-volunteer, so don’t do it. Kami naman pupunta sa kanila. Audit na ‘yan,” the BIR chief asserted.

(If they don’t volunteer, then don’t. We’ll go to them. We’ll audit them.)

Guillermo also hopes for the passage of legislation to further broaden the tax base.

One measure seeks to allow taxes on digital services purchased or subscribed to in the Philippines from a foreign-based company.

Guillermo said those who could be taxed included foreign digital services such as “video and online games, webcasts and webinars, from music files and image files to online advertising spaces and electronic marketplaces. to online training and yes, even streaming services”.

Some 11 billion pesos can be added to the tax collection if modifications or changes are made, Guillermo said.

Meanwhile, Commerce Secretary Alfredo Pascual is backing legislation to further help government and small businesses.

He said the e-commerce economy had grown exponentially during the pandemic and was now what he called the great equalizer, as even the poor can transact online.

Pascual said DTI helps small businesses sell well online, as well as market and produce their products well.

“We are creating this e-commerce platform that will provide them with ease of onboarding so that they are introduced to the digital world,” Pascual said.

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