Tax conciliation becomes political issue

Should the government negotiate with tax evaders who owe big sums?

Laura Chinchilla said no when she was president and issued a decree that forbade tax collectors from this type of negotiation. That decree was issued even though conciliation is generally a step in the criminal process.

Helio Fallas, the first vice president and minster of Hacienda, says yes. He told lawmakers Wednesday that the decree issued by Ms. Chinchilla has been rescinded. A decree signed Thursday replaced it.

After meeting with the Asamblea Legislativa’s Committee for Financial Affairs to go over the fiscal deficit, Fallas told reporters that this settlement does not mean the government will pardon the alleged tax offenders. On the list of potential targets for punishment are a pair of large media groups, Grupo Nación and Teletica’s Canal 7, for alleged tax evasion.

In a statement released Wednesday, Ms. Chinchilla said she hoped the government does not take Fallas’ advice to change the directive and that no special treatment should be given to those guilty of tax evasion.

“In my last speech on May 1, I referenced the risk our democracy faces when particular groups use the influential platform of the media to take advantage of economic interests,” she said.

President Luis Guillermo Solís denied that there was confusion between his department and the finance ministry. He said the government is not looking to grant impunity to those found guilty of corruption, specifically tax crimes.

“Conciliation is a tool in a process that allows us to fully repair the financial damage caused by tax crimes,” said Solís via Twitter.

The ministry headed by Fallas issued a statement late Wednesday saying that the decree signed by Solis Thursday would not authorize reducing the debt of tax evaders. But the statement was unclear on several points. There would seem to be very little to discuss at a conciliation session if the amount owed was not on the table.

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