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BIR has its first list of 250 ‘top-earning’ social media influencers to investigate for tax compliance

By AYIE LICSI Published Sep 16, 2021 4:28 pm

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) announced it will begin investigating 250  social media influencers to check if they have been paying their taxes.

According to the Department of Finance (DOF), the BIR has already issued letters of authority to the influencers on the initial list.

Those on the list were discovered to be the highest-earning influencers who generate revenue from creating and publishing content for online platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

The bureau did not release any names but said that influencers who "willfully attempt to evade the payment of tax or willfully fail to make a tax return, to supply accurate and correct information or to pay tax” will be held criminally liable on top of paying taxes and other penalties.

“We encourage them to register, and then we have the profiling of over 250 personalities. We’ll do the investigation so that they would pay the necessary corresponding tax on their earnings,” said BIR Deputy Commissioner Arnel Guballa.

In August, the bureau released RMC 97-2021 indicating that social media influencers should declare their taxes for the revenue they receive online. The RMC is part of the government's efforts to gauge how large the digital economy has grown amid the pandemic.

Individuals classified as influencers are those earning from YouTube's partner program, sponsored posts, being a brand ambassador, affiliate marketing, and more. 

The circular also states that those who receive free goods in exchange for promotions must declare as income the fair market value of the goods.

The DOF added that these persons are classified as self-employed individuals engaging in trade or business as sole proprietors.

Even earnings from overseas sources should be declared, Guballa said. The agency is able to obtain information from foreign platforms and can cross-check the data filed by an influencer.

Aside from social media influencers, the BIR also reminded online sellers and play-to-earn gamers to pay the correct taxes. The BIR said it is studying how it can put up a registry where it can compel non-resident foreign corporations, such as Sky Mavis—developer of popular play-to-earn game Axie Infinity—to pay their taxes.

Influencers who evade paying their taxes may face six to 10 years of jail time and a fine of P500,000 to P10 million. (With a report from Elijah Felice Rosales/Philippine Star)