Editor’s Note: The following is an open letter penned by a Puerto Rican small business owner reacting to the government’s proposed tax reform and the change to a value-added tax system.
Your speech hurts. Your government strategy hurts. Your tax reform hurts.
I understand that Puerto Rico is in a very delicate economic situation, possibly the most critical in its history, but you are determined to stop those who are progressing and reward conformity and mediocrity. You say you want to benefit “honest workers,” but apparently for you, I’m not.
Sen. Angel Rosa said “those who should worry about what he is proposing are the evaders and cheats who have long been dodging their responsibility.” Rep. Luis Vega-Ramos said something very similar. I worry about what is being proposed, and consequently, that your administration thinks I am of those cheats, or worse, a tax evader. It hurts.
So let me tell you who I am, so you haven’t the slightest doubt, Mr. Governor. I’m an intelligent, confident, studious, very hardworking woman, impeccable in my values, and clear on my goals. I’m all that and more, but I am not a cheat. I am creative, a dreamer, a visionary. I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a daughter. I am an entrepreneur. I am Puerto Rican.
But on my island, nothing like that is rewarded — it is punished. With your reform your are hitting me from every side that hurts me as an individual and as an entrepreneur. And like me, there are many. We are many who a few days ago questioned what we’re doing on this island that we love, but that hurts us so much because it penalizes progress.
Have you thought about how you will affect small and medium businesses struggling every day to maintain and grow their operations? It is affecting those businesses that create jobs, that make theirs a more diverse and vibrant community so that people want to live in it.
It hurts because your measure can destroy my business and those owned by many honest entrepreneurs and workers like me. It will affect businesses from several angles, all keys to keeping a business afloat. It will affect cash flow for my business. It will affect my prices. It will affect my average purchase. It will affect my sales, as the consumer is going to hold back on consumption, because you yourself have said it: “the consumer decides how much they will pay.” Mr. Governor, stop saying that. You’re not giving me or my clients anything to decide. You are the one deciding for us. Do not make it look as if the decision is on the consumer.
Plus, with your consumption tax, you put some small businesses in a position of unfair competition against foreign firms that can make direct shipments to the island. How are you going to capture those purchases? I think you have no way of doing it, as it is beyond your reach. However, it affects small local businesses because consumers can evade the VAT on online purchases and we stop making those sales. The consumer decides, as you said, and my prediction is that they will decide in favor of where their money stretches further, even if that’s outside the island.
I urge you, Mr. Governor, to meditate a while. Why do you insist on rewarding those who conform and not the ones who are progressing? Why do you believe the burden should fall on those who have the most? Do you happen to know what I have?
I will tell you. I studied like you have no idea. I have Bachelor’s and Master’s from one of the best universities in the world. I have been successful in all of my jobs and earned well regardless of the company where I worked, because I work tirelessly for what I have. So did my father. So does my husband.
The resources we have, we have earned through hard work, as “honest workers,” even if according to your administration, we don’t fall within that definition. I also sacrifice every day to give the best to my children, including the best education you can give. Yes, that education you now intend to tax. You don’t play with education, Mr. Governor. By the way, it’s education that I have to pay out of my pocket, because the government offers a mediocre education, and now you also want to punish me for the government’s mediocrity. It’s unacceptable. Education is a fundamental human right.
Meanwhile, the lazy and kept still fail to produce, fail to contribute. With your attitude, you portray successful professionals as the bad guys. It hurts. The burden of a bankrupt government must not fall only upon the successful, but on everyone. Encourage everyone to be productive citizens and contribute. Stop penalizing those who are successful. Stop penalizing those who want to earn money honestly, and spend it honestly. On this island, it’s worth trying to become better, but not by much, because you get labeled.
Money does not fall on my lap, Mr. Governor. So why work so hard? So that we’re labeled as cheats? Stop turning the rest of the citizens against us. The rich must pay! That sounds so easy. Being a successful professional is highly valued in many societies, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I’m sorry to say that is far from the solution to guide the island.
You are not letting me decide anything. You are the one who’s deciding. You are going to affect my business. As a couple, we will continue to pay income taxes. You are proposing to collect a tax on my children’s education, and on everything I as a consumer decide to buy with the money I’ve earned with the sweat of my brow. It hurts.
It hurts that you are making it harder for me to be able to continue to live here in the place where I was born, where my family and my heart is. Learn to value and respect the Puerto Rican professional, or soon you won’t have them.
I have spent almost 15 years paying taxes, many taxes, without receiving anything in return. Everything I need, I pay with my money. The government has not given me anything. No education, no health care, not even the peace of mind of feeling safe in my own home. Like me, there are thousands of professionals who hurt and who see our one way ticket out ever closer.
You decide, Mr. Governor.