MANILA - The Bureau of Internal Revenue said Thursday it filed a tax evasion complaint against the holding company of news website Rappler, its president, Maria Ressa, and another official.
The BIR cited Rappler Holdings Corp for alleged "willful attempt to evade or defeat tax" and its "deliberate failure to supply correct and accurate information" in its 2015 tax return.
The firm issued and sold P181.67 million worth of Philippine Depositary Receipts to 2 foreign firms, but failed to pay income and value added taxes for the transaction, BIR said.
Due to these omissions, the aggregate tax liability of Rappler amounted to P133.84 million, the bureau said. Treasurer James Bitanga was also included in the complaint.
Ressa called the complaint "ludicrous."
"The BIR should check its own records since it recognized Rappler as one of the top 500 corporate taxpayers in region 7. We are not surprised by this latest government move to harass us," Ressa said in a statement.
Ressa said Rappler was shocked by the speed of the BIR to file a complaint with the Department of Justice, when its agents only delivered a letter 3 days ago that was "remarkable for its lack of details."
"Rappler has always been transparent and above board in all its dealing and transactions, and the records will bear us out," she said
Rappler's sale of PDRs to foreign investors led the Securities and Exchange Commission to revoke its certificate of incorporation in January for allegedly violating the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media.
The news website denied the SEC's claim that Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, controlled its operations.
Rappler asked the Court of Appeals to reverse the SEC ruling.