Wednesday, April 28, 2010


A new omnibus tax law (decreto 17-2020) was published Monday in La Gaceta, the official organ whose publication makes laws legal. La Tribuna reports that on reading the published law, which they passed just before their Easter break, Congress was astonished to see changes in no fewer than nine articles. La Tribuna tells us that those most amazed were the committee that assembled the final version of the bill after all the changes and amendments were collated. The revision committee ("comisiĆ³n de estilo") , consisting of German Leitzelar, Oswaldo Ramos Soto, and Rigoberto Chang Castillo, denies it made these changes in the version of the bill it sent to the President.

Earlier today, Secretary of Congress, Rigoberto Chang Castillo, said the only difference is in Article 15, where they left off the exoneration of payment for raw materials imported for the manufacture of medicines. Chang said of the publication of the new law in the Gaceta:
"Any doubts, any error, or omission there is in the publication of this law, the only person responsible is Rigoberto Chang Castillo, and we are willing to clarify the doubts, errors or omissions....There was no ill will nor manipulation, nothing like that, what happened was that a paragraph was left out of Article 15 and that will be rectified."

However, in later stories, La Tribuna quotes Congressman Marco Antonio Andino as finding errors in Articles 15, 16, and 19. Marvin Ponce, fourth Vice President of Congress and a UD party member, said,
"It's deplorable that at least three articles were of them is the revision presented by Congressman Marlon Lara so that supplies to produce medicines by Honduran companies would be exonerated, including, we said here (in chambers), that medicines for animals would be exonerated, but in the publication it's different and the exoneration isn't included."

Also missing was a motion that exonerated those owing back taxes of the fines and surcharges on them, and the tax on rental units was supposed to be five percent, starting with luxury rentals of 15,000 lempiras, but was printed as a 10 percent tax. Ponce indicated that the printed version also left out exoneration of fines and surcharges for those with a debt to the agricultural development bank, BANADESA.

Ponce continued,
"There is no confidence of that approved by the members in open session, the true law has been disrupted by the revision committee or by the people who sent this document to the Executive or in those instances."

German Leitzelar, a member of the revisions committee said
"we are reviewing La Gaceta and saw that the document of ours does not agree, there are errors in copying and changes in the working, and the members of the revision committee need to present a decree to amend by addition and correction things based on what we submitted."

His list of changes needed includes Articles 1, 7, 15, 16, 19, 20, and 21. As the Liberal Party Congressman Jose Simon Azcona said,
"laws should be published as they were approved in the National Congress, if there is a group that is not in agreement with this, they can submit a law to amend the existing law, but no one should change things outside of Congress."

Oswaldo Ramos Soto, another member of the revisions committee, urged people to wait until the committee has fully compared the document they sent to the Executive branch for signature with that published in La Gaceta.

Despite these objections, the new tax law goes into effect as published in 20 days from its April 22, 2009 date of publication. It will be up to Congress to approve revisions and amendments to the version published, to correct any errors in the published version. Supposedly the committee on revisions is working on such a set of amendments now.

These changes to the law aren't minor, if we go by the comments on the scope of changes in the various La Tribuna articles. The revision committee members seem to be trying to calm the waters, portraying the changes as minor copying errors, rather than deliberately introduced changes. Interestingly, only Marvin Ponce of the UD party called for an investigation into how and more importantly, where, the changes were introduced. I doubt he'll get his investigation.

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