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Criminalization of Tax Evasion

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Lawyers reject criminalizing tax evasion

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De La Guardia. mulling over tax evasion laws

THE POSSIBILITY that the government might yield to “external pressures and make tax evasion in Panama a criminal offence has  been denounced by the National Bar Association (CNA).

“I t does not cause such a disturbance” that obliges the State to make it a criminal offense, said the body’s president Juan Carlos Araúz, who   on Saturday rejected the “external pressures,” to  take that step.

“Internal tax evasion is not part of a problem that requires a regulation in terms of its criminalization,” which “leads us to categorically reject any external claim” in that regard, Araúz said in statements to the Efe  news agency

Panama’s  Finance Minister Dulcidio De la Guardia said last week that international agencies have recommended Panama consider tax evasion as a criminal offense and not an administrative default, as it is now, and said  the issue should at some point be evaluated and debated.

Presidency Minister, Alvaro Alemán, has not ruled out that the recommendation on the criminalization of tax evasion should be included in a report that will be presented in 45 days by the Latin American Financial Action Task Force (Gafilat), which ended Friday an evaluation round in the country on Friday May 26.

For Araúz, external pressures on the fiscal issue are not in line with Panamanian reality and only yield to the pretension that the country should become “the fiscal police or the police of the taxes of any individual in another jurisdiction.”

In terms of taxes, the Central American country “maintains the possibilities of control and monitoring that determine precisely the fulfillment of the obligations of both nationals and foreigners residing in our territory,” said Araúz.

He added that Panama also has “sufficient control mechanisms” to prevent its powerful international financial center “from being used for the commission of criminal acts in the light of precisely what conduct is a crime in our country.”

Revelations in the Panama Papers of the creation by law firm Mossack Fonseca, of hundreds of thousands of offshore companies to enable businessmen, politicians and sports and entertainment figures to avoid taxes, reverberated around the world.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/lawyers-reject-criminalizing-tax-evasion

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Jail for tax fraud  considered in new bill

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Dulcidio De La Guardia

PANAMA’S MINISTRY  of Economy and Finance (MEF) is working on a bill that could earn jail terms for those convicted of tax fraud. But fiscal experts  warn it needs controls to avoid becoming a tool for political persecution

At the moment it is an administrative fault that does not lead to imprisonment.

Tax consultant Osvaldo Lau said that “it is necessary to strengthen the control and sanctions as far as the taxes, in general, are concerned. The problem that if the power is centralized in an official appointed by the Executive it can become a political weapon. ”

In an attempt to limit the arbitrariness of an official, in the scheme that is being considered for Panama, it could require the analysis of the Tax Administrative Court to decide if the case deserves to be sent to the Public Ministry.

Rubén Bustamante, a tax law expert, said that prosecutors, lawyers, judges and the population, have advocated the creation of a specific criminal court for cases of tax fraud.

Tax lawyer José Javier Rivera warned of the need to train professionals and recalled that “in a democracy as weak as this, without having  been  constituted as a crime, it has already been used to try to intimidate people.” Reports La Prensa.

Finance Minister, Dulcidio De La Guardia, told La Prensa that hat “there will be people who are not satisfied and will say this  is persecution. when there are obvious actions against the patrimony of the State. He said  it must be taken into account that “Panama is the only country in Latin America which does not consider tax fraud as a crime along with  money laundering.”

The minister pointed out that tax fraud would be considered an offense, if there is the intention of deliberate evasion of taxes. Debts  with the treasury cannot be punished with prison penalties of prison, according to the Constitution. The threshold has not yet been defined ,for  a minimum amount of money evaded, to  be considered an offense.

 

http://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/jail-tax-fraud-considered-new-bill

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The Criminalization of Tax Evasion

A proposal has been made to criminalize tax evasion in Panama, where, unlike other countries, it is only considered an administrative defect.

Friday, October 6, 2017

In order to avoid going back on the gray list and improving compliance with international standards against money laundering and fiscal transparency, the Panamanian government has presented a comparative study on tax offenses in Panama and other countries in order to start a debate on criminalizing tax evasion in the country.

Panama is one of the few countries in Latin America where tax evasion is not considered a crime, but an administrative defect.  The comparative study presented by the Ministry of Finance details that of 27 countries analyzed, Panama and the Bahamas are the only ones that do not criminalize tax evasion.

From a statement issued by the Ministry of Economy and Finance:  

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Dulcidio De La Guardia, pointed out that the definition of tax fraud as a crime and a offense which is a precedent to money laundering aims at complying with the international standard in this matter and, sooner or later, Panama must discuss the issue in order to achieve consensus."
 
His statements were given today within the framework of the presentation of "Comparative Analysis of Tax Crimes in Panama and in other countries", an event that brought together representatives from different sectors.

Read full study (in Spanish).

 

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/main/The_Criminalization_of_Tax_Evasion

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Plans to Penalize Tax Evasion

In Panama, a bill put forward by the Varela administration proposes that tax fraud of $300 thousand or more be classified as a criminal offense, and punished with 1 to 3 years in prison.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Ministry of Finance and Economy insists that the country is at risk of being included once again in the gray list of the Financial Action Group if tax evasion is not considered a crime. Panama is one of the few countries where tax evasion is not considered a criminal offense. 

Prensa.com reports that "...The government has distributed among business associations and specialists a proposal for a law that establishes that tax fraud of $300 thousand or more would be considered a criminal offense, punishable with imprisonment of 1 to 3 years."

See: "The Criminalization of Tax Evasion"

Héctor Cotes, president of the Panamanian Association of Business Executives (Apede) "... suggested raising from $300,000 to $500,000 the amount for which this type of fraud is considered a criminal offense and highlighted the need to have guarantees for taxpayers."We are worried that it will be used as a political tool," said the union representative, who asked that the process not allow the directer general of revenue to have all of the power in these cases."

 

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/main/Plans_to_Penalize_Tax_Evasion

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Project to Penalize Tax Fraud Goes Ahead

The bill presented by the Varela administration in the National Assembly stipulates sanctions of 2 to 5 years and fines up to 10 times the amount defrauded. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

From a statement issued by the Ministry of Economy and Finance:  

January 18, 2018 The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) today presented to the National Assembly a bill proposing the inclusion of the crime of tax fraud as a crime in the Penal Code.  

The bill will add Chapter XII "Crimes against the National Treasury" to Title VII of the Criminal Code and shield our financial center as well as logistic activities and legal services against its possible use to evade taxes in other jurisdictions or in Panama. 

"The Bill is designed for large evaders, who have multi million dollar incomes and do not pay their tax obligations," said the Minister of Economy and Finance, Dulcidio De La Guardia, during his presentation to the National Assembly." 

Read full release (in Spanish).

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/main/Project_to_Penalize_Tax_Fraud_Goes_Ahead

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I don't really understand the significance of this. Yes, out of its own self-interest, Panama should have made evading Panamanian taxes a crime. But imagine you are a Dutch businessman who somehow uses the Panama financial system to evade Dutch taxes.

How is Panama supposed to know foreign tax law? It's obviously a crime in Holland. Panama is going to arrest you and prosecute you for tax evasion if and when you set foot in Panama?  You're going to be sent to La Joya for breaking a Dutch tax law? 

Panama should arrest you if there is an international warrant and return you to Holland. Going beyond that seems impractical if not impossible. 

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".........multi million dollar incomes and do not pay their tax obligations,"

Well...that rules us out !  Seriously,  seems to me Panama would certainly benefit in tightening the noose on evasion of taxes owed to their own country.

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1 hour ago, Uncle Doug said:

I don't really understand the significance of this. Yes, out of its own self-interest, Panama should have made evading Panamanian taxes a crime. But imagine you are a Dutch businessman who somehow uses the Panama financial system to evade Dutch taxes.

How is Panama supposed to know foreign tax law? It's obviously a crime in Holland. Panama is going to arrest you and prosecute you for tax evasion if and when you set foot in Panama?  You're going to be sent to La Joya for breaking a Dutch tax law? 

Panama should arrest you if there is an international warrant and return you to Holland. Going beyond that seems impractical if not impossible. 

Wouldn’t “crimes against the national treasury” restrict the proposed law to the avoidance of Panamanian taxes? Or am I misunderstanding something?

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3 hours ago, Moderator_02 said:

The bill will add Chapter XII "Crimes against the National Treasury" to Title VII of the Criminal Code and shield our financial center as well as logistic activities and legal services against its possible use to evade taxes in other jurisdictions or in Panama. 

It's the EU who wanted this law in order to take Panama off of the "black" and then "gray list" of foreign tax havens.  They want it to be a crime in Panama to do what they consider to be money laundering or tax fraud or tax evasion of taxes that are owed to the members of the European Union.  They don't really care if Panama collects its own taxes or not.

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3 hours ago, Uncle Doug said:

It's the EU who wanted this law in order to take Panama off of the "black" and then "gray list" of foreign tax havens.  They want it to be a crime in Panama to do what they consider to be money laundering or tax fraud or tax evasion of taxes that are owed to the members of the European Union.  They don't really care if Panama collects its own taxes or not.

Exactly. The Panamanian government is just complying with mandates issued by the EU gang.

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Controversial Request to Reduce Penalties for Tax Evasion

During the discussion of a tax evasion law project, the Panamanian business sector requests that the amount defrauded to be considered a legal crime be increased from $300,000 to $500,000.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Regarding the request made by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama, the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) explained that "... There are points that the guilds would like to modify, which would undermine the law project so far that its objective would be lost. Panama needs a solid proposal. To request that the amount of fraud be raised to 500,000 balboas does not demonstrate seriousness in combating money laundering."

From the MEF statement:

October 22, 2018. The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) proposes that, in the absence of agreements on Laws 591 and 692, the efforts made by the Government and the private sector to seek a solid document should be considered.

Eyda Varela de Chinchilla, head of the MEF, said that "There are a few differences of opinion between what the guilds expect, but we believe that the law that seeks to criminalize tax evasion, promotes transparency which is key to raising our institutional payment of taxes to the state. It also constitutes a commitment or debt of Panama to the international community."

The improperly named Panama Papers contained many cases considered fiscal crimes in other jurisdictions, which used our legal structures, where money laundering is not a crime, which impedes the judicial cooperation of the Public Ministry with the country requesting the collaboration.

Read full statement (In Spanish).

 

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/main/Controversial_Request_to_Reduce_Penalties_for_Tax_Evasion

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Progress in Tax Evasion Law

The law project approved in the first debate in Panama establishes penalties of two to four years in prison for evasion of $300,000 or more and could be used as a precedent for money laundering.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Commission of Government, Justice and Constitutional Affairs of the National Assembly, approved in the first debate the law project 591, which considers tax evasion as a crime.

Regarding the law under discussion, last week the business sector requested that the amount defrauded to be considered a criminal offense be increased from $300,000 to $500,000, however, the amount remained at $300,000 as originally proposed.

See "Controversial Request to Reduce Penalties for Tax Evasion"

Regarding what was approved, Prensa.com reports that "... To introduce tax evasion as a precedent offence of money laundering, a new article of the Criminal Code was approved (Article 254-A), which establishes a penalty of two to four years. In addition, this general type indicates that anyone who reasonably presumes that the money handled is of illicit origin will be punished. In the case of evasion, the new article states that whoever handles the money "knowing that it is the result of crimes against the National Treasury" will be punished."

In the case of money laundering, the article adds that "... To have money laundering, there must be a previous offence from which the illegally obtained money originates. The current Criminal Code establishes that if the illicit money originates from corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism, human trafficking and a long list of illegal activities, the penalty is 5 to 12 years in prison."

 

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/main/Progress_in_Tax_Evasion_Law

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Assembly advised to prioritize  tax fraud law, budget and new judges

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Approval of the law that criminalizes tax fraud, ratification of the new Supreme Court judges and returning the new  Budget Law to the Executive are the issues that should be a priority in the extraordinary sessions of the National Assembly, according to Panama’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture.

“We recognize the importance of legislating and punishing tax evasion, as well as  revising the points indicated by international entities such as the Financial Action Group in this matter, so it is necessary that there is  full progress to have legislation in this area ready  at the end of the year, “said the business association in a bulletin issued on Sunday, November 24.

The Chamber also asks the Assembly to fulfill its role as a counterweight in the separation of public powers by assuming with responsibility the evaluation of the judges appointed by President Juan Carlos Varela, demanding suitability, merit, and independence.

“In an election year like the one that is coming, we must act with moderation, prudence and, especially, with a foresight that closes the way to the waste of available resources. That is a responsible vision of the country,” said the Chamber.
 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/assembly-advised-to-prioritiz-tax-fraud-law-budget-and-new-judges

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Panama can return to FATF gray list if it does not criminally classify evasion

Fri, 12/28/2018 - 13:58

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The Government of Panama warned today that the country risks to be included again in the gray list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in 2019, if the Parliament does not approve a project of law that typifies tax evasion as a criminal offense precedent to money laundering.

This is the bill 591, presented by the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) last January to the National Assembly (AN), which provides penalties of up to 5 years in prison for those who evade the payment of taxes over the $ 300,000 per year, an unprecedented proposal in this country that struggles to end the image of tax paradise.

"The seriousness of the fact that Bill No. 591 is not approved is that the country will have to face the real possibility of being included in the FATF Gray List in 2019", the Ministry of Economy and Finance said on Thursday in a public statement.

Panama was already included in 2014 in the gray list of the FATF, which hampered the international activities of banks and some industries, but it was excluded in 2016 after complying with a series of recommendations from that institution to strengthen the supervisory systems and control.

In current Panamanian legislation, tax evasion is an administrative fault, and the official initiative to make it a criminal offense on the recommendation of international organizations, as the Government maintains, has met with stiff resistance, especially in legal sectors, but also among businessmen.

The Ministry of Economy and Finance said that the Financial Action Group of Latin America (GAFILAT) analyzed in a recent meeting "the technical progress of Panama in closing gaps to comply with the FATF recommendations identified in the Mutual Evaluation Report (IEM) published in January 2018".

"GAFILAT, in this report, has concluded that Panama has been progressing in relation to addressing the technical deficiencies identified in its IEM (...) however, it also highlights as a deficiency that fiscal crimes are not defined as predicate offenses of money laundering".

That "omission impacts on one of the main risks identified that is the placement of assets derived from offenses committed abroad", according to official information.

"The Ministry of Economy and Finance considers necessary for Panama that the National Assembly approve the bill that places tax evasion to criminal offenses and as a precedent for money laundering", he said.

At the end of last October the Minister of Economy and Finance, Eyda Varela, rejected a proposal from the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (CCIAP) that asked to reduce the prison sentences up to 4 years and increase to 500,000 dollars the amount to from which tax evasion would be considered a tax crime.

For the same date, the Banking Association of Panama (ABP) asked the Parliament to approve the bill that defines tax evasion as a criminal offense.

The Panamanian financial platform has been under the microscope for several years and the criticism intensified after the inclusion of Panama in the gray list of the FATF in 2014, and the publication of the so-called Panama Papers.

 

https://www.panamatoday.com/economy/panama-can-return-fatf-gray-list-if-it-does-not-criminally-classify-evasion-8801

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Lax lawmakers endanger Panama’s financial system

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Deputies off to the hills
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The National Assembly closed its extraordinary sessions on Thursday, December 27 and deputies headed off for another long weekend without discussing a, bill to criminalize tax evasion amid warnings of the danger of returning to a list of financial pariahs.

Minister of Finance, Eyda Varela de Chinchilla, warned that not penalizing evasion has a “very high cost for Panama”.

She was echoed by her predecessor Dulcidio De La Guardia, who through Twitter said that “the indifference” of the Assembly in not approving the initiative would cost all Panamanians dearly.

A Ministry statement  warned. that for more than a year the country has been discussing the law to prevent Panama from falling back into the gray list of  the International Financial Action Group (FATF).

The Financial Action Group of Latin America analyzed a few weeks ago, during its plenary meeting in Ecuador, the country’s technical progress to close gaps and comply with the recommendations of the FATF.

On Friday. The Panama Banking Association which brings together 70 banks warned that Panama is exposed to isolation and being  identified as an accomplice to tax crimes.

To not penalize evasion, said the agency, , “will have dire consequences”, because it could cause a “hardening of credit conditions and greater difficulty in obtaining loans, which could cause a heavy blow to the economy”.

Chancellor Isabel de Saint Malo said on Twitter:”It is necessary for the Assembly to understand that this project is central to national interests. I do not lose hope that this is the first project I will tackle in 2019.”

Severo Sousa, president of the National Economic Council, said that, after the deadline for extraordinary sessions, the Assembly “must commit to discussing the project with priority as soon as it restarts [ordinary] sessions next week.”

Bill 591 was approved in the first debate on the night of October 29 of this year by the Government Commission.

It was agreed that in order for money laundering to occur, there must be a prior offense from which the ill-gotten money originates … corruption, drug trafficking, terrorism, human trafficking and a long list of illegal activities,. $300.000 is the amount from which the evasion will be considered a crime.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/panama/lax-lawmakers-endanger-panamas-financial-system

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Pressure to Approve Tax Evasion Law

The Panamanian government assures that if the law that criminalizes tax evasion is not approved, the country will be exposed to enter the FATF grey list again in 2019.

Friday, January 4, 2019

From the Ministry of Economy and Finance press release:

The Ministry of Economy and Finance considers that it is necessary for Panama that the National Assembly approve the law that increases tax evasion to a criminal offence and as a precedent for money laundering.

For more than a year the country has been debating the importance of this law to prevent Panama from falling back on the list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

The Financial Action Task Force for Latin America (GAFILAT) analyzed a few weeks ago during its plenary meeting in Quito, Ecuador, Panama's technical progress in closing gaps to comply with the FATF recommendations identified in the Mutual Evaluation Report (MER) published in January 2018.

GAFILAT, in this report, has concluded that Panama is making progress in addressing the technical compliance deficiencies identified in its MER. For this reason, Recommendations 14, 19, 32 and 33 have been positively re-rated.

Read full release (In Spanish).

 

https://www.centralamericadata.com/en/article/main/Pressure_to_Approve_Tax_Evasion_Law

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Criminalizing tax fraud law approved

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Posted 29/01/2019
 
In a last gasp move to avoid Panama’s return to the OECD  gray list of tax havens The plenary of the National Assembly approved on Tuesday afternoon of January 29, third debate, the bill. 591, to penalize tax fraud.

 During the debate lawmakers, Felipe Vargas and Zulay Rodríguez, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party,(PRD) and Fernando Carrillo, of Cambio Democrático, (CD) expressed their disagreement with the bill, and the PRD deputy Leandro Avila during his speech asked where the pro-government deputies were to defend the bill that reforms the Tax Code.

To analyze theis bill, the plenary session had been declared in permanent session last Tuesday, the last day of sessions in the Assembly before the interruption by the World Youth Day WYD).

On Monday, January 28, the discussion was resumed, and it was approved in the second debate.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/criminalizing-tax-fraud-law-approved

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Tax fraud will have more severe punishments in Panama from now on

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 09:40

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The National Assembly (NA) of Panama approved on Monday in the second debate a bill that raises tax evasion to criminal offense, with penalties of 2 to 5 years in prison to the taxpayer who evades more than $ 300,000 in taxes.

With this approval of the bill 591 that penalizes the fiscal evaluation, the plenary session of the NA concluded the permanent session declared on January 22 to discuss the initiative, suspended that same day and retaken to give it a vote and send it to the third final debate.

The project that should have been approved in extraordinary sessions last December, penalizes tax evasion by adding chapter XII, called Crimes against the National Treasury, to Title VII of the Penal Code.

The initiative was presented to the Parliament by the Executive to adapt the Panamanian legislation in the matter of tax payments, defining issues of evasion and tax fraud in order to comply with the requirements of the Financial Action Group (FATF) and prevent the country from entering the so-called gray lists of nations that do not cooperate in the fight against money laundering.

These regulations were modified on the one hand to meet the demands of the FATF, but also in defending the interests of the country, indicated a public pronouncement of the NA.

The deputy Zulay Rodríguez, of the opposition party Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), affirmed that with this project "we are once again selling our sovereignty, we have broken the country again".

The legislative information highlighted that the Panamanian Minister of Economy and Finance (MEF), Eyda Varela de Chinchilla, said in the debate that there are interests of business sectors, and that is why they oppose the legislation.

The head of the MEF also explained that only 80 taxpayers surpass the figures of 300,000 dollars in the payment of taxes, therefore, it does not affect the majority of Panamanians. At the same time, she dismissed it as a rule that can be used by this Administration to persecute political opponents, since, she said, there is little time to hand over power.

The jail penalty of tax evasion is a proposal that generates some controversy in Panama and is a measure demanded by multilateral organizations such as the International Monetary Fund or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Currently, only Panama and the Bahamas avoid penalizing tax frauds taking into account the countries of the region. In the case of the canal country, the penalties for this crime include fines of between 2 to 5 times the amount defrauded to the treasury, so they seek to take more forceful actions in relation to this activity.

The president of the Bar Association (CNA), Dionisio Rodríguez, affirmed that this norm "of course that is going to be used for political persecutions", at the time that demanded a deeper discussion with penal lawyers in order to define terms in the norm as the primary accomplice and secondary accomplice "because what is being approved is a criminal conduct". The ANC proposed in a statement that the project must be send to the first debate.

The legislator José Antonio Domínguez, of the ruling Partido Panameñista (PPa), said that the intention of the regulation "is that there is no attempt on the part of the lawyers' association to cover money laundering acts" through the creation of anonymous corporations.

The Panamanian Government has indicated that the country risks consists in be again included in the gray list of the FATF if the Parliament does not approve this bill and that this would have negative effects on its financial system.

In the same session of the National Assembly, was approved in the third and last debate, the bill of Law 692 which serves to adopt the Tax Procedure Code (TPC), with which it is intended to simplify the payment of taxes.

The legislation was approved by the legislative plenary of the Parliament after having been returned to the second debate in order to make new reforms, as a result of the consensus between the parliamentary groups and the MEF.

Minister Chinchilla pointed out that most of the modifications were of form and not substance, as well as that this project represents the fulfillment of a debt of the Government towards its taxpayers. This code establishes procedures and dates through which taxpayers can enforce their rights in this matter, such as the creation of judges and arbitrations.

The Executive Branch maintains that the approval of this Tax Code is urged to comply with standards required by organizations such as the OECD and the FATF to get the country out of possible tax haven, said a statement from the NA.

The legal initiative, which now awaits the sanction of the President of the Republic for its promulgation, will provide both officials and taxpayers with the tools to streamline processes in the General Directorate of Revenues of Panama (DGI). With more than 300 articles, the CPT project provides the steps to follow on the payment of taxes, claims and other parameters.

The CPT will regulate for the first time the tax-taxpayer relationship by reason of the application of taxes, while fiscal matters (non-tax) will continue to apply the ordinary fiscal procedure as indicated by the Tax Code.

Chinchilla said during the debate that Panama is one of the last countries that accepts this procedure, since almost all of them have this mechanism. She also indicated that the project was presented in compliance with international standards with the ex officio prescription of taxes, thus contributing to the legal security of national and foreign taxpayers.

With the regulations, it will be possible, for the first time, to purge the current account of the DGI and establish the true figures of fiscal debits, as well as to eliminate the exhausting action of realizing scopes on figures that then must be declared prescribed.

The text explains the responsibility, mechanisms and procedures to follow in all procedures, and establishes the integration of an Administrative Tribunal and the conformation of its members, according to official information.

 

https://www.panamatoday.com/economy/tax-fraud-will-have-more-severe-punishments-panama-now-9089

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