PRMA President Pedro Watlington and Executive Vice President William
Nearly 15 days after Law 154 — imposing an excise tax on sales by local subsidiaries to their foreign parent companies — went into effect, members of the Puerto Rico Manufacturers Association got a chance Friday state for the Legislative record their opposition to the measure.
During a hearing by the House Finance Committee, PRMA officials expressed their opposition to the clauses contained in the law that sets an initial 4 percent excise tax on transactions between offshore corporations and their local affiliates during the first year, and the manner in which it was approved.
The law was signed Oct. 25, 2010, just hours after it was rushed through the House and Senate, which approved it without public hearings.
Through the law, the government expects to collect about $6 billion over the next six years, when the temporary corporate tax will expire, to finance its tax reform plan. The trade group, however, supported the approval of the tax reform bill, as long as their recommendations are included.
During the hearing, PRMA President Pedro Watlington asked the heads of the House and Senate’s Finance Committees to immediately start a joint between the private sector and the government to try to amend errors contained in Law 154, before the start of the next legislative session.
“This law has created a very negative perception of Puerto Rico as an investment destination globally and it isacrisisthat could be resolved, but we must begintotrulydiscussandreach a consensusby working together,” Watlington said.
Among other things, the PRMA voiced its opposition to the changes to the income source rule, as it pertains to taxing revenue generated outside Puerto Rico.
“Adoptingtheproposed rulewill leavePuerto Ricoat a greater disadvantagethan it already isto attracttouristsandit wouldincreasethe cost of cargo shippingdramatically,” he said.
Furthermore, the group also rejected the increase to 10 percent from 7 percent on the retention for services offered within and outside Puerto Rico. The increase and the imposition of the 10 percent withholding on payments for services provided by affiliates outside Puerto Rico do not go hand in hand with the imposition of taxes on foreign companies following the source of income rules, they noted.
As a rule, in the case of foreign entities the income tax code collects from sources within Puerto Rico and income from services rendered outside of Puerto Rico is not considered income from sources within Puerto Rico. The PRMA suggested to leave the retention as outlined in the current tax code.
The group also said the proposed changes to calculating credits for purchases of local products will discourage such activity as well as export activity.
In its presentation, the PRMA said the amendments to the island’s Internal Revenue Code should attempt to minimize two long-standing problems: tax evasion and the ongoing reduction of the taxable base. Doing so will be achievable with simple mechanisms, Watlington said.
CNE analyzes proposal
Earlier this week, the Center for the New Economy analyzed the reform, saying it should follow four basic premises.
First, it should be sweeping, analyzing the entire system to avoid pitfalls associated with partial or incomplete reforms. Second, it should expand the taxable base by eliminating many credits and deductions granted over the years. Third, it should reduce marginal tax rates, as high taxratesprovidea powerful incentivefor people toaltertheir businessandspendaconsiderable amount of resourcestolegally avoidpayingtaxes. Finally, the reform should simplify the system.
“Puerto Rico’s InternalRevenue Codeiscomplicated, unfair andterribly inefficient.These defectshampermanagement andsupervision efforts, as well ascomplying withit, andin the long-run,thesedefects reducetheamountofrevenuegenerated bythetaxsystem,” said Sergio Marxuach, public policy director for the CNE.
Marxuach also weighed in on specific aspects of the proposed reform, such as provisions for individual and corporate tax rates and how tax relief will be financed.
“We believe that anew4 percent excise tax on the salesofsomecompanies operating inPuerto Rico to their affiliated companies outside ofPuerto Ricoisthemain, butnotonly source, tofundtax cutscontainedinthe proposed reform,” he said.
Taxing further to stimulate economic growth is a method that has not been proven, and could conceivably work against any sought improvements.
Marxuach said the high level of uncertainty regarding how companies affected by the 4 percent tax will react — which includes reducing or closing operations — could lead to negative revenue growth and loss of jobs.
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.