As the Senate and House tax plans head to conference committee to reconcile tax plan differences, major religious leaders from Puerto Rico are asking Congress to protect the island from new proposed taxes. Metropolitan Archbishop Roberto O. González Nieves, OFM of the Catholic Archdiocese San Juan de Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Bible Society Secretary, Reverend Heriberto Martínez-Rivera wrote to Congress with their concerns.
"If Congress treats American citizens living in Puerto Rico differently than American citizens living in the 50 States by treating our island as a foreign jurisdiction, we believe recovery for our island home will be nearly impossible," wrote González and Martínez-Rivera in their letter to Congress. "We respectfully request that all Members of Congress ensure that a final tax reform plan does not impose new excise taxes on Puerto Rico."
Working with Jubilee USA and US religious groups, the Archbishop and Evangelical leader have engaged Congress for nearly two years to move policies that promote economic growth and reduce the island's crippling debt load and high child poverty rate. In the recent letter they wrote to Congress, they noted that tens of thousands of American jobs could be lost in Puerto Rico if the Senate and House conference committee did not strip the excise tax from final legislation.
"If Congress fails to remove this excise tax in their final tax package, it is just like hitting Puerto Rico with another hurricane," said Jubilee USA Director Eric LeCompte who advises Puerto Rico's religious leaders and serves on United Nation expert groups. "Before the hurricanes, we were dealing with a severe financial crisis and almost half of all Puerto Rican kids were living in poverty. We are now dealing with a full blown humanitarian crisis that Congress can make better or even worse."
Read Archbishop González and Reverend Martínez-Rivera's letter to Congress.
The Senate could vote later on Friday on a tax reform package. If a package passes the Senate, the House and Senate will likely use the conference committee process to reconcile differences between the final House and Senate tax packages.
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development organization, Jubilee USA, releases the following statement:
“Any final tax reform package should support and protect vulnerable communities. I’m concerned that portions of the current tax plans will harm poor populations.
"A final tax package should not shifts greater tax burdens to the poor or constrict our budget from providing adequate foreign development assistance or disaster relief.
"We could see more developing countries borrowing more money and becoming more indebted as a result of less foreign assistance because of current tax plans.
“Current tax reform legislation moves the US to a so-called territorial tax system that encourages the use of tax havens and permits corporations to avoid paying US taxes and taxes in developing countries. Such a plan has a human cost and negatively impacts poor people at home and abroad.
“Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still struggling to recover from the aftermath of this hurricane season and they should not be subject to additional excise taxes that US states are not subject to. While Congress considers tax policies to promote jobs for Americans in the 50 States, those policies must also ensure that US citizens living in Puerto Rico and the Territories are treated the same. Puerto Rico and the US Territories will lose tens of thousands of jobs if Congress passes a final tax package with new excise taxes for the Territories.”
As the Senate pushes tax reform, the head of a religious development group expressed concern over parts of the House and Senate proposals that could harm low income people in the United States and people in the developing world.
“Any final tax reform package should support and protect vulnerable communities. I’m concerned that portions of the current tax plans will harm poor populations,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA. “A final tax package should not shift greater tax burdens to the poor or constrict our budget from providing adequate foreign development assistance or disaster relief.”
The House and Senate will likely use the conference committee process to reconcile differences between the final House and Senate tax reform packages.
“Current tax reform legislation moves the US to a so-called territorial tax system that encourages the use of tax havens and permits corporations to avoid US taxes and taxes in developing countries,” noted LeCompte. “Such a plan has a human cost and negatively impacts poor people at home and abroad.”
Jubilee USA has worked with Congress for nearly two years on US financial policies regarding Puerto Rico. Portions of a final tax package could impact Puerto Rico and other US Territories according to LeCompte.
“As Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still struggling to recover from the aftermath of this hurricane season, they should not be subject to additional excise taxes that US states are not subject to,” stated LeCompte. “While Congress considers tax policies to promote jobs for Americans in the 50 States, those policies must also ensure that US citizens living in Puerto Rico and the Territories are treated the same. Puerto Rico and the US Territories will lose tens of thousands of jobs if Congress passes a final tax package with new excise taxes for the Territories.”
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently interviewed by Bond Buyer to discuss relief efforts in Puerto Rico. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.
Humanitarian Advocates Optimistic on Aid to Puerto Rico
By: Brian Tumulty
Laura Esquivel, director of national Advocacy for the Hispanic Federation, and Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, told The Bond Buyer they are hopeful Congress will rework the administration’s request and provide more funding[...]
LeCompte stressed the urgency of stepping up the recovery effort.
“I think Congress will step up and we will see in the coming weeks and months more packages around both relief and recovery and rebuilding aid as well as some financing issues addressed,” LeCompte said.
LeCompte said his organization supports having the oversight board established under PROMESA review contracts that are signed for spending federal funds in the recovery effort.
“There appears to be a need for some transparent and accountable way that contracts are reviewed," he said. “We just want it to be expedient and fast.”
Read more here.
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, was recently cited in IRIN News on debt relief in the Caribbean. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.
Recovery pledges for hurricane-ravaged Caribbean are a drop in the ocean
By: Samuel Oakford
Eric LeCompte, director of Jubilee USA, said his umbrella group of religious organisations was exploring ways of delaying payments and obligations over the coming months.
“That’s an issue where we’ve seen some progress, but we don’t have firm commitments from the IMF or Paris club over any kind of debt moratorium.”
Read more here
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Washington DC - Jubilee USA, a religious development group, asked the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to require greater disclosure of what payments corporations make to governments where they operate. The Securities and Exchange Commission designates the FASB as the body that sets accounting standards for public corporations in the United States.
In a letter to the FASB, Jubilee USA's Executive Director Eric LeCompte wrote, "The developing world loses more than a trillion dollars a year because of tax evasion, tax avoidance and corruption. The problem is difficult to address because of a lack of public data."
Development groups like Jubilee USA view stronger reporting standards as a vehicle to raise revenue for human needs in the United States and around the world.
"It's critical that large companies report their income, assets and numbers of employees for every country where they do business," said LeCompte regarding the letter. "This basic reporting can stop corruption and raise money to address poverty."
Read Jubilee USA's full letter to FASB click here.
Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 650 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee USA builds an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA wins critical global financial reforms and won more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people.
Available for interview: Eric LeCompte, Executive Director
Contact: Lydia C. Andrews, Deputy Director
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I want to wish you and your loved ones a Blessed Thanksgiving.
We give thanks for the abundance that God gives us. In community we work so that abundance is shared among all people. We remember so many in our global community struggling this Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, California, Texas, Barbuda, Dominica, Florida and famine-hit Africa. We remember and we continue our work so that all have enough in the face of crisis.
We also give thanks as our partners celebrate new possibilities in Zimbabwe.
In this time of challenge and hope, I'm most grateful that we continue this journey together.
So very grateful for you,
Jubilee USA Network