• The San Juan Daily Star

Treasury embargoes 136 investment accounts owned by tax holdouts

Puerto Rico Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea

By The Star Staff

Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea said Thursday that the agency has embargoed 136 investment accounts owned by delinquent taxpayers in local and U.S. brokerage firms.

The liens total $3 million including interest, surcharges, penalties and costs of garnishment.

The move, which was coordinated by the Revenue Bureau of the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Area, arises from the failure of the targeted taxpayers to pay their debts. The taxpayers also ignored available approaches and alternatives and had knowledge of the consequences that they could face as tax defaulters, the Treasury chief said.

“We are informed of the results of recent collection efforts carried out by the Department, which fell on deaf ears,” Parés Alicea said. “After complying with due process of law, unfortunately we had to act against investment accounts and although these are not the actions we want to take, our responsibility is to put the house in order and gather resources that ensure the operation of services.”

Parés Alicea said that 13 seizure letters were personally delivered to brokerage houses in Puerto Rico and another 123 were sent to brokerage houses in the United States, for a total of 136 seizures on investment accounts.

“These enforcement and collection efforts are part of the work plan to combat tax evasion,” he said. “We have identified approximately 6,000 additional cases that we are evaluating, to proceed against their investment accounts. We are acting on the assets of these people, because despite having the ability to pay, they insist on not complying with the Department.”

Parés Alicea noted that the information on debtors with accounts in brokerage houses was collected through the Unified Internal Revenue System (SURI by its Spanish acronym) platform in just a few hours.

“We urge debtors or defaulters to voluntarily go to the Department to find out about payment alternatives and that once they reach the agreement, comply with it to avoid collection efforts and that we have to exercise the powers of the Department,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, the secretary announced other control efforts that are being carried out, which include garnishment of wages and accounts in cooperatives of delinquent taxpayers.

In the case of wage garnishments, the process changed from manual to electronic, streamlining work. Now the SURI platform provides a functionality that allows the Treasury Department to communicate with employers so that they can proceed with the corresponding discount through the platform.

“Technological advances continue to occupy a prominent place and we are already at a level where we can identify debtors through our platform and electronically inform employers to make payments electronically,” Parés Alicea added.

They retain and remit payments to the Department on a monthly basis. In the case of employees, 25% is retained and for contractors, up to 100%, with the alternative for the taxpayer of negotiating directly with the Treasury for a lower discount.

“These cases should make us reflect. It is clear that by failing to comply with our tax duty and not using the alternatives that we make available to taxpayers, we put properties and a lifetime of savings at risk,” the Treasury chief said. “We continue to work against all types of evasion and we are also available to seek reasonable solutions.”

The Treasury Department is currently working on 6,500 cases of individuals and corporations that have defaulted on their payments, representing $93.3 million.

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