BIR, BOC strengthen joint campaign against smuggling

In Photo: A man with a camera prepares to take a video of cargo at the Manila International Container Port. Having been under public scrutiny, the Bureau of Customs announced several reforms to curb corruption and smuggling in the processing of goods entering the country’s ports.

The Department of Finance (DOF) announced on Monday that a memorandum of agreement (MOA) is being fine-tuned by the Bureaus of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Customs (BOC) to strengthen their joint campaign against smuggling.

The DOF said the two agencies are set to forge an agreement on information sharing and coordination, among other ways of cooperation, to strengthen their joint ​campaign against smuggling and beef up collections on excise taxes on imports.

In a recent DOF Executive Committee meeting, Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay said the bureau will also create a “strike team” to run after smugglers and counterfeiters of locally produced goods.

He added the BIR is currently meeting with the BOC to fine-tune the provisions of the MOA on information sharing, coordination and linkages, among other proposed measures.

“[The BIR strike team would] act as lead and point coordinator for all BIR enforcement activities on smuggled articles and locally manufactured counterfeit excisable products,” Dulay said.

The BIR-BOC agreement is an offshoot of Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III’s earlier directive to both agencies to strengthen their cooperation at the regional level by creating joint anti-smuggling task forces in Revenue and Customs districts outside Metro Manila.

Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña has complied with the order by issuing a memorandum to all district directors of the Customs bureau to coordinate with the regional offices of the BIR in forming joint anti-smuggling units.

Dominguez earlier said that, as a result of the “intensified and coordinated drive by the BIR and BOC against cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corp., the government was able to collect around P30 billion in taxes, which is the largest tax settlement ever in the country’s history.

He added the accomplishment enabled both the BIR and BOC to hit over 97 percent of their respective collection targets for 2017.

The BIR achieved 97.18 percent of its revenue goal of P1.829 trillion, collecting a total of P1.777 trillion in 2017, while the BOC collected P457.553 billion, against a revenue target of P467.896 billion, representing an accomplishment rate of 97.7 percent for the year.

Based on preliminary data, the country’s tax effort in 2017 hit 14.3 percent, which is the highest in the last 11 years, according to Dominguez.

In the past administration, the tax effort increased by an average of 0.3 percentage points per year as compared to 2017’s 0.6-percentage-point increase from the previous year, the highest rate of improvement since 2009, which the DOF chief said was largely a result of a more efficient tax collection, as the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law​ was not yet in effect last year.

Image Credits: Nonie Reyes

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Rea Cu is a graduate of Assumption College-Makati with a Bachelor's degree in Communications. She majored in Advertising and is currently the finance reporter of the BusinessMirror.