MANILA - Philippines authorities demanded Wednesday that boxing great Manny Pacquiao pay a $50 million (S$62.3 million) tax bill or risk having assets seized, but the national hero vowed to take the fight to court.
The battle between one of the best boxers in history and the taxman has shocked his army of fans in the Philippines, emerging just days after a comeback win in the ring was hailed as a moment of hope amid the aftermath of a deadly typhoon.
Pacquiao disclosed Tuesday the Bureau of Internal Revenue wanted 2.2 billion pesos (S$62.3 million) for alleged unpaid taxes in 2008 and 2009, when he was at the peak of his career and one of the world's highest-earning athletes.
Pacquiao, 34, insisted he had paid his taxes in the United States, and so did not need to do so in the Philippines because the two countries have an agreement allowing their citizens to avoid double taxation.
But tax commissioner Kim Henares, who has spearheaded a high-profile campaign against tax evasion in the Philippines, stood firm on Wednesday, saying Pacquiao had failed for two years to provide documents proving his US payments.
"2.2 billion (pesos) is what Pacquiao owes now because of surcharges and interest," Henares said on ABS-CBN television.
Henares said the tax bill may be cut if Pacquiao did provide certified documents proving he paid the US Internal Revenue Service.
"What we want is evidence that he (Pacquiao) actually paid the tax."
But she said that even if he had paid the 30 per cent tax rate in the United States, there would still be extra charges due in the Philippines because it had a higher rate of 32 per cent.
The tax office has frozen his bank accounts in the Philippines, which Pacquiao said had left him financially paralysed.
Henares said the tax office could eventually take the money owed by stripping him of his assets.
She said the tax office had already placed a "lien" on a Pacquiao property, worth millions of dollars, in one of Manila's most exclusive gated communities.
A lien is a form of security which allows the tax office to take back money it is owed, via lease payments or sale of the property.