COCKTALES | Citibank taps BIR, allows US access to bank, credit accounts of local clients means BUSINESS

The local Citibank has informed its Visa and Mastercard clients that it will begin random verification of cardholders' income tax returns with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

The BIR cooperation is on top of Citibank providing credit and banking information of local clients to the US Internal Revenue Service or any other authorized federal agency under the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Citibank advised clients that its new credit-card terms authorize the foreign bank "to obtain copies" of income-tax returns of Visa and Mastercard holders from the local tax agency.

As well, Citibank is authorized to obtain income documents from the employers and even from the cardholders' accountant.

"The cardholder hereby waives any rights on the confidentiality of cardholder information," Citibank said, adding that its stricter background check is authorized under Bangko Sentral Circular 622, enacted in September 2008.

Citibank also informed Visa and Mastercard holders that the American bank has been authorized to provide the credit history, including "anti-money laundering" information, of Philippine clients to the US federal authorities.

Designed to reduce the levels of tax avoidance by US taxpayers through the cloaks of foreign financial institutions, the tougher and more sweeping FATCA regulations will come into effect on July 1, 2014.

Citibank said that the release of a depositor or cardholder's financial accounts to US authorities is on top of any credit information that Citibank may provide to third-party agencies for "product and service offers."

"The cardholder agrees to hold the bank free and harmless from any liability that may arise from any transfer, retrieval, disclosure, use, processing or storage of information relating to him and/or his accounts, properties or investments, or accounts with other financial and non-financial institutions," Citibank said.

Manila City Hall takes back Lucio Tan hotel parking

Conspiracy theorists who believe that new Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has taipan Lucio Tan in his cross-hairs has another City Hall-led action to support their dim view.

After the city council reopened an investigation on the Mayor Alfredo Lim-era sale to the taipan of the city government property on which Tan's Century Park hotel stands on, the new City Hall sheriff next took back the hotel's open car park fronting the Harrison Plaza mall.

Occupying about a fifth of the car park, the roped-off section for years provided free parking to hotel guests. Not anymore.

Parking for hotel guests as well as mall goers now costs P30 for the first three hours, and P10 for every hour thereafter. Motorcyclists, even those used by messengers, are charged P20 flat for three hours, and P10 for every hour in excess.

News reports earlier this week said that the Manila City government had taken over the administration of the Harrison Plaza car park, but the parking tickets showed that a private firm, Utripse Aces Inc., was actually collecting the payments.

A computer check with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday showed that Utripse Aces Inc. had just been registered, with its incorporation papers still being processed.

That could account why no TIN number was imprinted on the parking tickets.

The Firm splits building

The breakaway faction of The Firm has formally announced its existence, but instead of making a clean break, it looks like Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia are still very much tied in the umbilical cord to their forsaken partners.

According to the skeletal website of partners Avelino Cruz Jr., Simeon Marcelo and Joe Nathan Tenefrancia, their new law firm occupies the sixth, seventh, eighth and tenth floors of CVC Law.

What has remained unstated is that the rest of the 12-story building in The Fort is still very much controlled by Villaraza & Angangco, as The Firm minus the deserters is now called.

For their lunch and merienda breaks, the breakaway faction has been reduced, according to the grapevine, to taking their meals with the non-legal staff including drivers and janitors at the 10th floor cafeteria, instead of the Gaita Fores-operated Rainmakers Lounge at the rooftop.

How long Cruz Marcelo & Tenefrancia would endure these reduced circumstances is not clear although the grapevine claims Cruz has been looking at the W building near St. Luke's Medical Center for eventual relocation.


• Makati's Mandarin remains the cheapest of the 17 Mandarin Oriental hotels, charging an average of $117 a night in the first semester of 2013, only up by a dollar from the year-ago level.

The most expensive: Paris, with an eye-watering $1,230 a night. In contrast, the New York Mandarin looks like a bargain at $857.

Closer to home, the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, despite an average occupancy rate of only 51 percent as against Makati's 71 percent, was able to price itself at $391 a night -- more than three times that of Makati's Mandarin.

• Philippine Airlines will stop flying to Perth in September after only three months of service.

The flag carrier will still maintain the thrice-a-week Manila-Darwin-Brisbane service, as well as the same frequency to Melbourne and the four flights a week to Sydney.

Heard through the grapevine

In dismissing the graft case against former Negros Occidental Governor Rafael Coscolluella, the Supreme Court cited the eight years of unjust delay by the Ombudsman in finishing the preliminary investigation and filing the criminal complaint.

The unnamed Ombudsman who dropped -- froze was more like it -- the ball during the said watch was either Simeon Marcelo or Merceditas Gutierrez, or even possibly both.