By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
One of the first topics in most high school world geography classes is, “Why are some countries rich while other countries are poor?”
The answer is a relatively simple one: a combination of its level of corruption, its geography, climate, whether it is landlocked, security of property rights, economic flow and, one of the most important, strong institutions determines the wealth of a nation.
Mexico is fortunate, compared to other Latin American countries, despite efforts from the current leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) administration’s verbiage to weaken or even dismantle some of these autonomous and semi-autonomous institutions.
A strong democracy requires these protections for voter rights, for access to public information and, in this case, the protection of one’s financial resources.
Mexico has had its share of financial debacles in very recent history. Without reliving the causes, 1982 was one of Mexico’s worst economic years.
Government payment balances on foreign debt and internal obligations could not happen at that time, so the peso took a major devaluation, the government defaulted on its financial obligations, and banks were nationalized.
Private citizens, along with business leaders, suffered massive losses, with the economic impact trickling down to the entire Mexican population.
Solid leadership at the time did not exist. The stabilization plan, the so-called Solidarity Pact, took almost five years to orchestrate, as well as the enactment of exchange rate bans. It was another two years for the Brady Plan, which restructured the debt of developing nations, to be enacted.
This rather lengthy trip down an ugly financial memory lane has paved the way for protection institutions such as Mexico’s Taxpayer Defense Attorney’s Office (Prodecon), the office for the defense of taxpayers, to leverage a fight against the all-powerful tax man.
As shared in other Pulse News Mexico articles, the Mexican Federal Treasury always retains an extra portion as a withholding from your salary, any bank interest and profits from investments, “just-in-case” your taxes might not be covered, so the federal tax authority, the Tax Administrative Service (SAT) has a cushion.
That cushion is supposed to be returned to you each April when you file your federal tax return.
The interest on those extra-held withholdings is substantial and not returned to the taxpayer, so the government is in no hurry to return that overage to taxpayers.
Fighting directly with the SAT is administratively cumbersome, often resulting in an answer of “declined” if a large amount is in your favor.
This is where Prodecon comes in.
Recent media reports indicate that for every eight out of 10 cases they accept and file as a suit on behalf of a taxpayer, the taxpayer ends up victorious. That is a great track record!
While it is somewhat challenging to make the paradigm switch from the typical government office that seems to be your enemy, such as the DMV or IRS, the Prodecon office is actually set up to be a taxpayer defense and advocacy office, with courtesy and professional personnel and minimum wait times to be attended to.
Its website gives all the detail. Prodecon offers in-person, phone and remote options for assistance.
The employees and interns will help you gather the needed documentation, file a claim against the SAT in your behalf, and do it all for free.
Yes, Mexico needs a strong agency to fairly collect taxes, especially the taxes from its eight biggest companies: America Móvil (Telecommunications), FEMSA (food, drink and tobacco), Grupo México (building materials), Banorte (banking), Grupo Elektra (retail), ALFA (conglomerate), Cemex (construction), and Grupo Bimbo (food and drink). T
hese private-sector groups, and many others, have long been given special back-room “privileges” for postponing or condoning the payment of their taxes by the federal government in-lieu of undisclosed agreements.
Federal petitions of transparency, requesting just how much these eight highest-wealth companies actually owe in back taxes and corresponding interest are answered with “that information is confidential,” but that’s a story for another day.
At the least, for the ordinary citizen, its good to know that there is an organism there to fight to get your unreturned taxes, your money, back to you … that is, until the current government decides to abolish it.