Philippine leader's celebrity sister is top taxpayer

Kris Aquino, sister of Philippine President Benigno Aquino, in Manila on December 11, 2011. The movie star and TV show host was the country's top taxpayer, beating many of its wealthiest tycoons, the tax commissioner said on April 16, 2013

Philippine President Benigno Aquino's youngest sister, movie star and TV show host Kris Aquino, was the country's top taxpayer, beating many of its wealthiest tycoons, the tax commissioner said Tuesday.

Kristina "Kris" Aquino, 42, paid 49.87 million pesos ($1.22 million), topping the list of individual taxpayers in 2011, according to a list released by the internal revenue bureau.

It was a sharp jump from her position at number 39 in the previous year's list but internal revenue commission Kim Henares said this was not unusual.

"Kris Aquino has always been in the top 50 (taxpayers). She can command huge amounts. It's not like a businessman where there is a range in earnings. While you are famous, a celebrity's income can really spike," she said.

"It depends on how many (commercial) endorsements you have, how many TV shows you have," Henares told AFP.

The list of top taxpayers posted on the bureau's website put Kris Aquino far ahead of the prominent tycoons who have been listed elsewhere as the richest people in the Philippines.

Shopping mall tycoon Henry Sy, listed by Forbes in March 2013 as the richest man in the Philippines, was only the 15th largest taxpayer on the bureau's list.

The list is based only on individual tax returns filed in 2011 which might not necessarily indicate who paid the most in taxes overall, said Henares.

She said that income from stock transactions and bank deposits were taxed differently while companies owned by the tycoons paid corporate taxes.

Henares said that the list of top individual taxpayers was published as part of a legal requirement, adding that this was not proof that these people had paid the right amount.

"Even if you are on that list, it doesn't mean you are paying the correct taxes. There is no seal of good housekeeping," she said.

She said the list would make some people "unhappy" but would not comment on whether there would be investigations into anyone on the list.

Tax-evasion is widespread in the Philippines and Henares has been crusading against the practice, publicly naming suspected tax cheats like businessmen and celebrities to scare people into paying the right amounts.

Kris Aquino rose to fame when her mother, pro-democracy leader Corazon Aquino, was installed as president in 1986, ending the authoritarian rule of fallen dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The daughter parlayed her family connections into a booming career as an actress, TV host, magazine editor and endorser of numerous products. Her official website calls her "Queen of All Media."

Her brother, Benigno Aquino went into politics but did not garner national attention until sympathy over the death of his highly-respected mother, Corazon Aquino in 2009, propelled him to election as president in 2010.