THE Aquino government filed its first tax evasion case against a pawnshop owner who has not been paying his taxes from 2002 to 2009.

The Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) lodged a complaint against William Villarica, proprietor of W. Villarica Pawnshop chain, before the Department of Justice (DOH) Thursday.

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In a press conference, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said Villarica willfully evaded the payment of tax, in violation of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) that carries a penalty of imprisonment of not more than 10 years.

The BIR is also set to file another complaint against Villarica for the civil aspect of the tax evasion, which would require him to pay the correct amount to the government.

On the investigation conducted by the BIR National Investigation Division, Villarica maintains several pawnshops in Caloocan, Malabon, Marikina, and Bulacan.

The BIR learned that from 1998 to 2009, Villarica's aggregate tax payments amounted to only P25,607.25. He also stopped filing his income tax altogether from 2002 to 2009.

In 2007, he filed a return with zero tax payments where he declared that his business has stopped operating due to losses.

Further probe however showed that on the same year that he claimed zero income, he was able to purchase a Lamborghini sports car worth P26 million, as verified by a certified true copy of the Deed of Sale dated April 24, 2007 at the Land Transportation Office.

"We find it to be not just criminal, but perhaps also immoral, for a person that earns profits out of people in need of financial assistance, yet fails to do his one duty to the country and pay his proper taxes," said BIR Commissioner Kim Henares.

Aside from a Lamborghini, Villarica also owned several other cars such as a Ferrari, a Beetle, and a Toyota.

On the purchase of the Lamborghini car alone, the BIR computed that the possible income tax deficiency of Vilarica would be at P16.2 million while the possible deficiency in value added tax could amount to P6.3 million.

The fact that Villarica has a P26-million vehicle, excluding interest and surcharges easily suggests that he could be raking in at least P1 or 2-million a year, at the minimum, the BIR said.

Purisima said the BIR probe on Villarica's non-payment of income tax and purchase of the luxury cars is just the tip of the ice berg.

"Normally someone with a nice car would probably have nice houses as well. So this is probably just the tip of the iceberg. Once case is filed in court, we will have the capacity to actually look into more details," he said.

On the part of the DOJ, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the case would be prioritized by the department in view of the Aquino administration's promise to raise revenues without having to resort to the imposition of new taxes.

De Lima said that at present there are about 16 high-profile tax evasion cases pending before the department which had been filed during the previous administration. (JCV/Sunnex)