New taxes on rich in El Salvador
According to the World Bank, El Salvador has some of the lowest taxes in all of Latin America and the Caribbean, and these revenues are not sufficient to finance needed spending on social programs.
Yesterday, the National Assembly passed a bill to increase tax collections from the rich and business. From a Reuters report:
Lawmakers in El Salvador approved a tax reform bill on Thursday that introduces a minimum income tax targeting loopholes used by the rich, as well as a imposing levy on financial transactions.
The measures were approved with a slim majority of 44 votes of the 84 cast with the backing of lawmakers from the ruling leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) with help from the moderate right wing GANA party....
The centerpiece of the bill introduces an alternative minimum income tax of 1 percent on a taxpayers' net assets.
Lawmakers complain that big companies and the rich evade taxes and are not paying their fair share under the current income tax structure that has a maximum rate of 30 percent. Taxpayers will have to calculate their tax burden under both rules and pay whichever is higher.
The bill also introduces a 0.25 percent tax on certain financial transactions greater than $1,000, with some exemptions such as ATM withdrawals and money transfers used by the roughly 2 million El Salvadorans living in the United States.
The bill also establishes a tax on luxury homes and targeted the nation's ultra-right wing newspapers. The bill eliminates exemptions newspaper owners had enjoyed since 1950.Reaction by business groups and the rich to the passage of the tax measures was loud and predictable. A national business association pledged a court challenge. The right wing ARENA party demanded that the president veto the bill and asserted the tax measure had only been passed as part of a vote swap, where the FMLN agreed to let GANA's candidate obtain the presidency of El Salvador's Court of Claims in return for GANA votes for the taxes. A columnist for the right wing El Diario de Hoy called the tax measures, an "enormous dead weight" on the economy.
For his part, president Salvador Sánchez Cerén thanked legislators for approving the measure which he said would go to fund the social and economic development of the country.