The data published by the Government strongly suggests that the level of compliance by citizens in fulfilling their tax responsibilities has not decreased in the face of the economic crisis, a show of civic behavior that the Department of the Treasury should reciprocate with more fiscal justice by establishing measures that contain the serious problem of evasion.
The treasury’s success in this great task is crucial to balance the government’s accounts and implement a demanding Fiscal Plan that no doubt will require the sacrifice of all in Puerto Rico.
With the final period of tax collections based on income generated the previous year at an end, the Treasury has shown optimism in achieving a figure similar to that obtained last year. Certainly, the rise in revenues during the current tax period would have to be confirmed by May, once all the returns are accounted for.
However, it does constitute an achievement to have obtained, during the fiscal year, revenues that have exceeded budget forecasts, taking into account that the general climate was not propitious to have expected good results. It is true that the budget was adjusted since last year, adhering to more conservative figures, precisely to avoid falling into an exaggerated optimism. Even so, it represents a good indication that individuals and corporations are maintaining a good sense of duty.
Which is why the Treasury must not disappoint them.
The best way of doing justice to citizens who fulfill their duty –and thus preserve their trust – is utter resoluteness against those who do not. Put more clearly: firm combat against evasion is the best recourse against impunity and corruption.
The vote of confidence given by citizens by timely filing their income tax returns, sometimes waiting in long lines to process them, has to be matched with greater action by the Treasury. Operations against evaders in recent years, so favored by public opinion, must not wane in favor of only an educational policy.
These actions unveiled the practice by certain companies of failing to hand over millions of dollars to the Treasury on Sales and Use Tax (IVU, by its Spanish acronym), and violations over employer’s withholdings. Equally reprehensive is that public entities have incurred in the latter.
Tax education is, of course, a prime concern. We have no doubt that among a certain number of taxpayers, specially among the most vulnerable, by being small businesses with little access to technology, the effort to guide them and make them aware of their fiscal duties is the government’s responsibility.
The fact is that the responsible taxpayers are doing their part. Now it is up to the Treasury, with authority to intervene directly over tax finances, to demand the transparency imposed by the need to balance the budget the governor is about to submit; comply with the obligations which stay expire in but a few days; and pave the way to drive the economic activity of the Country.
The requirements of by the Oversight Board include increasing the cash flow of the Treasury. Among many other things, at stake is the reduction of the work day if the programmed goals are not met and public employees are at risk of loosing benefits.
This rendition of accounts –to which citizens have obviously responded - passes immediately to the court of those called to act diligently. No privilege can stand above the sacrifices being asked from the Country.
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