Puerto Rico Reports – July, 2020

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Understanding Free Association

Posted August 16, 2019Freely Associate States

Puerto Rico is currently a possession, or territory, of the United States. It could also become a State or a nation with its own sovereignty.

As a nation, Puerto Rico could sign a Compact of Free Association (COFA) with the United States, creating especially close ties as a Freely Associated State.  Either nation could unilaterally terminate the relationship.

For decades, some leaders in Puerto Rico have claimed that Puerto Rico could  become an “enhanced commonwealth.” Sometimes called “perfected commonwealth” or “developed commonwealth,” this idea includes cherry-picking among federal laws in their application to Puerto Rico and creating a completely new relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. All three branches of the federal government have rejected this option.

As it has become clear that “enhanced commonwealth” is a non-starter, some of its supporters have started suggesting that Puerto Rico can have that brand new relationship under “Free Association.”

In 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) expressed concern that voters might confuse the two options. In rejecting the text of a proposed plebiscite ballot, the DOJ made sure Puerto Rican voters understood that “Free Association” is an option that requires separate sovereignty. The Compact of Free Association between the United States and the nations that are now Freely Associated States are deals between sovereign nations, not between a territory and the United States.

Read more about Free Association:

Get the basics. This article explains just what Free Association is and how it works.

Is it possible to repackage a rejected “enhanced commonwealth” status as “free association”?

The federal government has said clearly that Puerto Rico as a Freely Associated State could not count on keeping U.S. citizenship. Read the statements made by every branch of the government.

See how the federal government has responded to efforts to relabel “enhanced commonwealth” as “Free Association.”

What would a Compact of Free Association between Puerto Rico and the United States look like?

Territories tend to receive more generous health benefits than Freely Associated States.

In Free Association arrangements, either side can change the deal at any time. Puerto Rico cannot, for example, guarantee that the United States will allow citizens of a republic of Puerto Rico to keep their U.S. citizenship forever. See how the law works.

Puerto Rico could become a Freely Associated State, but it’s necessary to be aware of the possible drawbacks.

As Puerto Rico moves forward, it’s essential that voters and lawmakers alike understand what a Freely Associated State is and how that status would affect residents of Puerto Rico.

Updated August 20, 2019

The Implications of being a U.S. Territory

Puerto Rico (San Juan) by Ricardo Mangual on Flickr

On June 11, 2017, Puerto Rico held a plebiscite in which 97% of the voters rejected the island’s current status as a U.S. territory in favor of statehood.

An independence/free association option received 1.5% of the vote, and 1.3% of the voters chose for Puerto Rico to remain a U.S. territory.

Statehood opponents dismissed the vote due to low voter turnout. Statehood proponents called on Congress to act, noting a long history of plebiscite votes rejecting Puerto Rico’s territorial status.

As a U.S. territory, Puerto Rico can request statehood, but ultimately only Congress has the power to determine Puerto Rico’s future.

While the issue of statehood – commonly known as Puerto Rico’s “status” – stagnates, implications are felt on a daily basis. Disaster aid for hurricanes and earthquakes trickles out slowly from Congress. The federal Financial Oversight and Management Board exercises authority in Puerto Rico’s governance. Medicaid funding and nutrition assistance, which are not limited in states, are capped in Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s young men and women continue to serve in the U.S. armed forces with distinction. Puerto Ricans are voting for statehood with their feet, moving to the 50 states in record numbers, where they automatically receive the full panoply of democratic rights that are – with the exception of Puerto Rico – the hallmark of the United States.

The Federal Income Taxes Puerto Ricans Pay

Posted November 30, 2012

Unequal treatment of Puerto Rico under federal law has frequently been justified on the grounds that Puerto Ricans do not pay federal income tax on Puerto Rican based income.  As we’ve stated in previous posts, this argument becomes unconvincing when half of all U.S. citizens have no federal income tax obligations.

But there is another reason to question the unfairness—and often total exclusion—of Puerto Rico’s treatment in federal laws: it turns out that Puerto Ricans are contributors to our nation’s bottom line.

In 2011, Puerto Ricans contributed $3.3 billion to the United States Treasury, approximately as much as Vermont.  In past years, Puerto Rico’s liability has exceeded Vermont’s.  In 2010, for example, Vermont’s tax liability was only $3.2 billion, while Puerto Rico’s was nearly $3.6 billion.

Puerto Ricans are required to pay federal income taxes on income from federal sources outside of Puerto Rico; otherwise they are exempt from federal income taxes.  The wages of Puerto Rican federal judges and other federal workers is fully taxable, for example, as is investment income from U.S. sources, such as dividends from investments of companies located in the fifty states.

All employers and employees in Puerto Rice are still subject to payroll taxes as imposed by the Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA), including Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes.  The Social Security and Medicare taxes are withheld from Puerto Ricans’ paychecks just as they are for workers living within the rest of the United States.  The current Social Security tax rate is 6.2%, and the current Medicare tax rate is 1.45%.  Puerto Rican employers must also pay unemployment taxes, the current rate for which is 6.0%.  For low income workers, these taxes are more significant than income taxes because they pay a larger share of their income in payroll taxes than high income people do.  Finally, the federal government taxes Puerto Ricans on any of their investments made in the mainland United States.

Conversely, Puerto Ricans do not receive many of the same tax incentives as their fellow U.S. citizens living in the mainland.  For example, Puerto Rican families must have at least three children before they are eligible to receive the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit, and no one in Puerto Rico can qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, both of which are proven work incentives.  In the states, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit were responsible for lifting 9 million working people out of poverty in 2010 and reducing child poverty by 7% in 2014.  Puerto Rico’s working poor cannot access these poverty-fighting measures even though Puerto Rico’s poverty level is higher than that of any state.   For a detailed analysis of Puerto Rico’s tax treatment, see the Joint Committee on Taxation’s “An Overview of the Special Rules Related to Puerto Rico and an Analysis of the Tax and Economic Policy Implications of Recent Legislative Options” (JCX-24-06, June 23, 2006).

Editor’s Update:  In Fiscal Year 2015, Puerto Ricans paid over $3.5 billion into the U.S. Treasury through federal taxes ($3,524,557).  Click here for the 2015 data, broken down by state.  Click here for a related link to the IRS website, listing annual tax collections by state/territory.  Also, we thank Marianne for her observation that military pay is considered Puerto Rico source income for Puerto Ricans and not federally taxed.  We have updated our article to reflect related information contained in IRS Pub 570.

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The New York Times published a claim last weekend that has resurfaced with some frequency over the years: the notion that the U.S. has the power to divest from or to sell Puerto Rico. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/can-the-federal-government-sell-puerto-rico/#.XxILrUxFz_I)

Ritchie Torres, a New York Councilman and Congressional candidate, endorsed statehood for Puerto Rico in response to a proposal that the U.S. divest itself of Puerto Rico. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/ritchie-torres-endorses-statehood-in-response-to-proposal-that-the-u-s-divest-itself-of-puerto-rico/#.XxILq0xFz_I)

Back in May, NPR reported that Puerto Rico was the lowest state or territory in responses to the 2020 Census. More recent data suggests that 20% of Puerto Ricans have responded by now. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-is-not-responding-to-the-2020-census/#.XxILqUxFz_I)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee about Puerto Rico’s priorities for fiscal year 2021. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/jenniffer-gonzalez-colon-fights-to-puerto-rico-resources-at-appropriations-committee/#.XxIQgUxFz_J)

Of the options to resolve Puerto Rico’s ultimate political status, independence has never been particularly popular, and no candidate in support of independence has ever won as governor. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/how-popular-is-independence-in-puerto-rico/#.XxIQj0xFz_J)
http://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-a-u-s-territory/#.WSkoPGjyuUkhttp://www.puertoricoreport.com/what-will-happen-to-u-s-citizenship-in-a-new-nation-of-puerto-rico-the-word-from-washington/#.WSkoO2jyuUkhttp://www.puertoricoreport.com/whats-free-associated-state/#.WSkoP2jyuUk
PUERTO RICO: A U.S. TERRITORY
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. It became a U.S. territory in 1898, when it was acquired from Spain
READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-a-u-s-territory/#.WSkoPGjyuUk) WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO U.S. CITIZENSHIP IN A NEW NATION OF PUERTO RICO? THE WORD FROM WASHINGTON

READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/what-will-happen-to-u-s-citizenship-in-a-new-nation-of-puerto-rico-the-word-from-washington/#.WSkoO2jyuUk) WHAT’S A FREE ASSOCIATED STATE?
Historically, there have been three political parties in Puerto Rico, each one associated with a political status:
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In Puerto Rico, as in the States, individuals meeting the eligibility criteria will be receiving Economic Impact Payments under the CARES Act, but there is a different method of disbursement for Puerto Rico. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/stimulus-checks-for-puerto-rico/#.XpyBgExFz_I)

A shortage of doctors, tests, emergency responders, medical supplies, and funding for the healthcare system combine to make it more difficult for Puerto Rico to handle COVID-19 cases. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-gets-resourceful-about-coronavirus-response/#.XpyBfUxFz_I)

The First Circuit Court ruled that the federal government cannot exclude Puerto Rico from Social Security Supplemental Security Income payments, soundly rejecting the government’s “rational.” READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/lack-of-social-security-income-benefits-in-puerto-rico-points-to-inequality/#.XpyBgUxFz_I)

The Court’s ruling that Puerto Ricans are eligible for Federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits could enable hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rico residents to receive SSI benefits. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/court-rules-puerto-ricans-entitled-to-ssi-benefits/#.XpyBfkxFz_I)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Members of Congress wrote to Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the White House Task Force on Coronavirus, asking how the White House plans to support Puerto Rico during the pandemic. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/lawmakers-express-concerns-about-addressing-coronavirus-in-puerto-rico/#.XpyEFkxFz_J)

In Puerto Rico, the death toll after Hurricane Maria was hard to capture, and some of the same issues, coupled with additional factors, are cause for similar uncertainty regarding COVID-19 numbers. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/are-puerto-rico-coronavirus-numbers-accurate/#.XpyEIUxFz_J)
http://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-a-u-s-territory/#.WSkoPGjyuUkhttp://www.puertoricoreport.com/what-will-happen-to-u-s-citizenship-in-a-new-nation-of-puerto-rico-the-word-from-washington/#.WSkoO2jyuUkhttp://www.puertoricoreport.com/whats-free-associated-state/#.WSkoP2jyuUk
PUERTO RICO: A U.S. TERRITORY
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. It became a U.S. territory in 1898, when it was acquired from Spain
READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-a-u-s-territory/#.WSkoPGjyuUk) WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO U.S. CITIZENSHIP IN A NEW NATION OF PUERTO RICO? THE WORD FROM WASHINGTON

READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/what-will-happen-to-u-s-citizenship-in-a-new-nation-of-puerto-rico-the-word-from-washington/#.WSkoO2jyuUk) WHAT’S A FREE ASSOCIATED STATE?
Historically, there have been three political parties in Puerto Rico, each one associated with a political status:
READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/whats-free-associated-state/#.WSkoP2jyuUk)
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The COVID-19 pandemic has further reinforced geographic inequities in the U.S., in that D.C. and Puerto Rico are less equipped to fight the virus simply because they are not states. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/coronavirus-funding-shows-need-for-statehood-for-puerto-rico-and-d-c/#.XoeEx6hKiUk)

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon (R-PR) sees a possibility to use the Defense Production Act to help Puerto Rico’s economy regarding productions of medicines and other manufacturing. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-poised-to-be-part-of-the-national-conversation-on-manufacturing/#.XoeEx6hKiUk)

Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections, but does have a voice in presidential primaries. Puerto Rico had scheduled its Democratic primary race for March, but that changed due to COVID-19. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-is-part-of-u-s-current-events/)

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced issued new rules for Puerto Rico that are among the toughest of any jurisdiction in the U.S. aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-tightens-covid-19-restrictions/#.Xn5xC0xFz_I)

Puerto Rico was one of the first jurisdictions in the U.S. to enact strict curfew and quarantine rules and one of the first to announce a strong stimulus package in response to COVID-19. READ MORE (https://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-announces-coronavirus-stimulus-package/#.XoeejExFz_J)
http://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-a-u-s-territory/#.WSkoPGjyuUkhttp://www.puertoricoreport.com/what-will-happen-to-u-s-citizenship-in-a-new-nation-of-puerto-rico-the-word-from-washington/#.WSkoO2jyuUkhttp://www.puertoricoreport.com/whats-free-associated-state/#.WSkoP2jyuUk
PUERTO RICO: A U.S. TERRITORY
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States. It became a U.S. territory in 1898, when it was acquired from Spain
READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/puerto-rico-a-u-s-territory/#.WSkoPGjyuUk) WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO U.S. CITIZENSHIP IN A NEW NATION OF PUERTO RICO? THE WORD FROM WASHINGTON

READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/what-will-happen-to-u-s-citizenship-in-a-new-nation-of-puerto-rico-the-word-from-washington/#.WSkoO2jyuUk) WHAT’S A FREE ASSOCIATED STATE?
Historically, there have been three political parties in Puerto Rico, each one associated with a political status:
READ MORE (http://www.puertoricoreport.com/whats-free-associated-state/#.WSkoP2jyuUk)
https://www.facebook.com/PuertoRicoReport/https://twitter.com/PRicoReport

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© 2017 PUERTO RICO REPORT

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