'Forbes' richest Pinoys differ from BIR's records'

By Delon Porcalla, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 06 2014 03:08 AM | Updated as of Mar 06 2014 08:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang does not believe that the 10 richest Filipinos featured in Forbes magazine are also the richest in the list of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

Speaking to reporters, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda yesterday said the standards by which Forbes draws up its list are different from that which BIR Commissioner Kim Henares publishes. “What we publish as a government is the list of actual taxes paid by the taxpayer and does not necessarily reflect the total capital that is owned by a billionaire,” he said. “We take a look at their tax returns.”

Lacierda did not say whether these same persons would end up as the country’s richest.

Each year, the BIR comes up with a list of people who paid the highest taxes – and the country’s billionaires are not on top of the list.

Lacierda said Henares has explained this every year. “The lists of the top taxpayers are based on the incomes that they have earned,” he said. “The list in Forbes reflects the total assets or the total capital owned by a respective billionaire.”

As for the country’s Top 500 companies, the list “only shows the income earned and the taxes they pay with respect to those incomes earned,” Lacierda said.

Based on Forbes’ latest report, Filipino-Chinese businessman and shopping mall tycoon Henry Sy and family are still the richest people in the Philippines and among the top 100 billionaires in the world. The Forbes 2014 list said the 89-year-old magnate and his family are ranked 97th among billionaires, leading 10 Filipinos and their families even after their net worth dropped to $11.4 billion from $13.2 billion in 2013.

Forbes said Sy merged his vast property assets under mall operator SM Prime Holdings to create a company with a recent market cap of $9.3 billion.

In November 2013, Sy’s property unit SM Land garnered a $1.2-billion contract to reclaim land in Manila, next to the Mall of Asia complex. However, Forbes said Sy’s fortune also dropped by $1.8 billion mainly because shares of his holding firm SM Investments tumbled 30 percent in 2013.

“They took a hit when the company sold some shares to institutional investors at a discount to market price,” Forbes said.

The 10 Filipino billionaires who made it into the 2014 Forbes billionaires’ list are: Henry Sy and family, $11.4 billion (97th overall); Lucio Tan and family, $6.1 billion net worth (227th); Andrew Tan, $4.7 billion (319th); Enrique Razon Jr., $4.2 billion (354th); John Gokongwei Jr., $3.9 billion (388th); David Consunji, $3.3 billion (483rd); George Ty and family, $2.3 billion (764th); Tony Tan Caktiong and family, $1.7 billion (1,046th); Robert Coyiuto Jr., $1.5 billion (1,154th); and Andrew Gotianun, $1 billion (1,565th).

Forbes said a record 1,645 billionaires made the list this year, with an average net worth of $4.7 billion.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is back on top of the list as the world’s richest person with a net worth of $76 billion.