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Tax exemption for Pacquiao? No way, says Palace

MANILA, Philippines – Following the filing of a bill seeking to exempt world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao from paying income tax, Malacañang made its opinion on the matter clear: That's not right.

Reacting to the push by certain congressmen to give Pacquiao lifetime income tax exemption, Presidential Communications and Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said on Friday, December 6, "that is not a just proposal."

"It's the duty of every citizen to pay the right taxes. Paying taxes is one of the basic obligations of every Filipino citizen. So our viewpoint in that is, it is not a just proposal," he said.

Coloma also said Pacquiao does not fall under the group of individuals who enjoy tax breaks since "exemptions are based on an individual's ability to pay [taxes]." He said usual exemptions are reserved for some minimum wage earners, and are usually based on the number of family members and dependents of the taxpayer.

He said if the exemption being sought for Paquiao is based on exemptions for national athletes, the Palace still disagrees with the proposed measure.

The Philippine government has never conferred lifetime tax exemption on any one individual.

"It's an important duty for citizens to support their government by paying the right taxes at the right time. If this is the basis, our opinion is we don't think it's justified," he said.

On Thursday, Valenzuela Representative Magtanggol Guingundo filed a measure seeking lifetime tax exemption for Pacquiao as a sign of appreciation for Pacquiao's achievements and for the honor he has brought to the country. 

Another bill, filed by Buhay Representative Lito Atienza, seeks to provide tax exemption to his prize money from fights. 

Pacquiao, who was listed by Forbes magazine last year as the 14th highest-paid athlete globally with an estimated $34 million in earnings, is currently in the middle of a legal war with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). (Read: Pacquiao asset freeze: 'Below the belt')

The tax bureau has accused Pacquiao of failing to pay taxes worth tens of millions of dollars.

The boxer and Sarangani congressman maintains he paid taxes in the United States on earnings from his fights there. He also accused the tax bureau of harassing him for political purposes. 

A Philippine court has since slapped a gag order on Pacquiao and the BIR, prohibiting both from making any more public pronouncements on the matter. – Rappler.com