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The Department of the Treasury loses $700 million to $900 million a year, courtesy of tax evasion by the white-collar sector, which includes but is not limited to doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and corporations, carrying out multiple maneuvers to flout the State.  

The figure comes from estimates issued by economic analysts consulted by USA Today Puerto Rico Edition and is based upon the taxes that were never paid by corporations and white-collar professionals, but not on one-time jobs or illicit activities, such as drug trafficking.

“The Treasury has lost that battle against tax evasion. And that front has been reduced with the introduction of  amnesties,” said economist Luis Benítez, former co-chairman of the Tax Reform Committee in 2005.

Despite the fact that the Treasury doesn’t disclose estimates of how much it fails to collect annually for this type of evasion, the agency confirmed to USA Today Puerto Rico Edition that between 2009 and 2011, it identified 103 white-collar tax evasion cases, of which 45 have been prosecuted.

According to the Secretary of the Treasury, Jesús Méndez, of said total of cases 41 have been taxpayers who failed to report their income; and for those, the amount due totals $74.7 million. These cases have already been referred to the Department of Justice.

There are various ways of tax evasion. One of the most common ones is seen every day in offices and businesses that only accept payments in cash.

“If the Treasury wishes to fight tax evasion, they should simply go stragiht to medical offices,” said José J. Villamil, economist and president of the Board of Directors of Estudios Técnicos.  

Contrary to payments made with credit or debit cards, cash transactions are harder to trace, the economist noted. According to Villamil, there is no other reason for a company to only take cash as a form of payment.  

Another way of tax evasion is taking cash payments and not reporting them to the Treasury. The business may be accepting other forms of payment, but it conceals or reports a lower number of cash transactions, which registers a reduced amount of income, and thus the taxes to be paid for said income.  

According to economist Ramón Cao, an expert in tax matters, another method used by white-collar tax evaders is to inflate expenses in order to pay less tax. “They deduct the yacht, vacation trips and other expenses that are not business expenses.”

The Sales and Use Tax (IVU, for its Spanish acronym) is another tax evasion mechanism. Ironically enough, the IVU was implemented in 2006 as way to increase tax collections, which were plummeting at the time. It was difficult for the Treasury to implement fiscalization for the payment of 6.6 percent in excise tax by importing companies, but they assured the IVU would be easier to monitor.

Today, IVU tax evasion nears the 50 percent, according to figures from the Treasury and the Foundation of the Certified Public Accountants Association.

According to economists, there are businesses that charge the IVU but don’t send it to the exchequer, whereas others are not even registered at the Treasury Department.

“There has always been” tax evasion said the economist who estimates that it’s higher now than it was one decade ago.


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