BIR: Courts order arrest of vape distributor facing P1.2-B tax raps

By Benjamin Pulta

February 26, 2024, 3:55 pm

<p>BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. <em>(PNA file photo by Ben Pulta)</em></p>

BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. (PNA file photo by Ben Pulta)

MANILA – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Monday said it has scored a victory in its campaign against tax evaders after local courts issued warrants of arrest against officials of a firm engaged in vape distribution and found to be liable for more than PHP1.2 billion in taxes.

In a statement, BIR Commissioner Romeo Lumagui Jr. said the case against officials of Tap Fog stemmed from a raid in November 2022, when he was still the deputy commissioner of the bureau's Operations Group.

The cases are pending before the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) and the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) which have already ordered the issuance of warrants of arrest against the Tap Fog group, Lumagui said.

"This is a testament to our promise that after the execution of raids, cases will be filed. In the case of Tap Fog, a big-fish vape seller, the courts have already ordered the issuance of warrants of arrests. The BIR is closely monitoring the vape industry. Comply with the registration and taxation requirements under our laws. The vape industry is already a regulated industry, the BIR has already established a system for the proper registration and payment for this purpose,” he added.

The estimated civil liability instituted in the criminal complaint is PHP1,240,748,088, inclusive of fines and penalties.

Tap Fog and its conspirators are charged with unlawful possession or removal of articles subject to excise tax without payment of the tax in violation of Section 263; selling of heated tobacco products and vapor products at a price lower than the combined excise and value-added taxes in violation of Section 263-A; selling or offering for sale any box or package containing articles subject to excise tax with false, spurious or counterfeit stamps or labels or selling from any such fraudulent box, package or container as aforementioned in violation of Section 265; willful attempt to evade or defeat tax in violation of Section 254, and willful failure to pay taxes in violation of Section 255, in relation to Sections 15, 171, 172 and 253 (d), of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, as amended.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said the development shows that the government intends to prosecute tax evaders.

“Noong araw kasi, ang prosecutor o judge discretion nya kung ipa-file nya yung kaso (Before, the prosecutor or the judge would determine whether a case may be filed). We have taken away that discretion because the interest of the state is at hand. Pagka walang mag-aalaga sa interest ng state, ano mangyayari? (What will happen if no one would pursue the interest of state?) That's why we have set a reminder to our prosecutors that here we are prosecutors for the state,” Remulla said in a press briefing. (PNA)