At that time, these entrepreneurs were preparing to file income tax returns. Income taxes disappeared in the early days of the revolution, so when they were reinstituted in 1995, they were a novel concept. There was apprehension and confusion about procedures.
And, of course, no one liked the idea of paying tax. I had the impression, if you can believe it, that lots of these entrepreneurs might not have declared their full income so as to reduce any tax payment they would have to make, on top of monthly advance payments they had already made, when they filed their return early in the new year.
The income tax also applies to authors and artists who earn money abroad. To my knowledge, it applies to no one else.
Now, a new group has to pay taxes; they do not like it, and one can’t blame them. This is the part of the Cuban workforce that works for foreign companies (not joint ventures), and who receive a hard currency bonus of a few hundred dollars a month in addition to their peso salary. This new policy was announced last December and discussed briefly here.
According to documents distributed to the workers, they are now required to register with the tax office by April 1 and to file returns, and companies are required to record the hard currency payments that they make to workers, and to inform the tax office. The tax applies only to hard currency bonuses, not to the workers’ peso salaries. Income tax will have to be paid three times per year. Monthly earnings up to $200 are taxed at a ten percent rate; earnings above that, up to $500, face a 12 percent marginal rate, all the way up to a marginal rate of 50 percent for earnings higher than $5,000 per month.
Two weeks ago, El Nuevo Herald reported that there were meetings where workers subjected to this tax complained bitterly to officials. Now comes a Reuters report (English here, Spanish here) on these same meetings. A video of the meetings seen by reporters shows workers complaining, demanding that the payments first be declared explicitly legal before any tax is levied, and laughing at the idea that they would have to pay a fee of more than $30 to register with
It would be very interesting to know more about this discontent among some of the highest-paid workers in
- Raul Castro encouraged Cubans to speak out, and this group of “card-carrying Communists,” as the Reuters correspondent calls them, took him up on it.
- From the accounts of the meetings, I barely see lip service paid to the social justice ideals that justify the tax on entrepreneurs who earn far less (usually less than 1,000 Cuban pesos per month) than these company workers, or the fees taken out of remittances from abroad. Zippo.
- It is interesting is to think how else the government might have dealt with this. Foreign companies’ hard currency payments to workers are longstanding, widespread, and blatantly outside the law. The government could have acted shocked like Claude Rains and attacked the companies for making the payments, or cracked down and stopped them altogether.
- Instead, it was decided that it is OK for the foreign companies to provide this benefit and incentive, and it’s OK for these Cubans make more money than others, but it is only fair that they pay tax. In the scheme of things, it’s hard to argue that the taxation of these workers is unfair.
- I doubt that the hyper-egalitarian Fidel Castro would have reached this decision. It signals acceptance of incentives and higher earnings for workers in sectors of the economy that produce results. If this attitude is carried to other economic policy decisions, it will mean more incentives, more opportunities for higher pay, a greater chance to improve output and productivity. That would all be positive for
’s economic health. Cuba