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Honduras: urge un pacto fiscal, no más privilegios fiscales

En 1998 las autoridades hondureñas promovieron la creación de la Ley de Incentivos al Turismo, que tenía como propósito promover el aumento de inversiones privadas y empleo en las diversas regiones turísticas del país. Han pasado 27 años desde la vigencia de dicha ley, y se desconocen estudios oficiales que evalúen si se han cumplido los objetivos primordiales de este trato privilegiado al sector turístico.

Lo que sí sabemos es que, solamente en 2016, los beneficios tributarios preferenciales relacionados con las actividades turísticas significaron un sacrificio fiscal de L500.7 millones. De acuerdo con información del Marco Macrofiscal de Mediano Plazo 2018-2021, cerca de L231.0 millones de los impuestos no se recaudaron por la aplicación de la Zona Libre Turística de las Islas de la Bahía y otros L206.2 millones por la Ley de la Zona Libre Turística.

Honduras es un país con grandes desafíos en materia de desarrollo y democracia. Basta decir que seis de cada diez hondureños viven en situación de pobreza, y cuatro de cada diez se enfrentan cotidianamente al flagelo de la pobreza extrema, mientras cerca de medio millón de niñas, niños y adolescentes está afuera del sistema escolar. Honduras también tiene la segunda tasa más alta de homicidios de Latinoamérica (59 homicidios por cada 100 mil habitantes). Asimismo, diversos estudios señalan la existencia de un sistema de corrupción institucionalizada en el que conviven actores de los sectores público y privado en estrecha conexión con redes criminales.

En ese sentido, la pobreza, la violencia e inseguridad, la corrupción e impunidad y la carencia de oportunidades económicas para las grandes mayorías condicionan tanto una significativa migración hacia Estados Unidos como las posibilidades de atraer y retener inversiones privadas. Los incentivos tributarios no pueden hacer que el inversionista obvie estos factores que aumentan el riesgo y la incertidumbre social, política y económica que afronta el país. Por el contrario, la disminución de la recaudación de impuestos como resultado de estos privilegios limita las posibilidades de ofrecer bienes y servicios públicos que aumenten el bienestar social y potencien el crecimiento económico de mediano plazo.

En el mundo existen experiencias exitosas con el otorgamiento de privilegios fiscales, en ellas se evidencia el cumplimiento de cuatro premisas fundamentales:

a) descansar en un estudio de beneficio-costo de conocimiento público en donde el gobierno demuestra cuáles son los compromisos que adquieren los inversionistas a cambio del otorgamiento de privilegios fiscales; este estudio debe revisarse anualmente para establecer si los compromisos han sido cumplidos y vale la pena el mantener dichos tratamientos especiales, b) los privilegios fiscales deben ser temporales y decrecientes; no deben ser permanentes debido a que cuando se mantienen por un plazo largo, la industria se vuelve ineficiente e incapaz de sobrevivir sin la concesión de privilegios; c) los privilegios deberán referirse exclusivamente al impuesto sobre ingresos, de ninguna forma implicará exención a los impuestos al consumo porque dicha situación implica un deterioro a las cadenas de tributación interna, d) deben establecerse mecanismos de supervisión de tal forma que se eviten los abusos en el uso de los privilegios fiscales.

Además, está demostrado que parte del éxito de estas medidas depende de que no existan otros factores como la criminalidad, la corrupción, la insuficiente fortaleza institucional, las dificultades de acceso al financiamiento y la inadecuada capacidad de la fuerza laboral, que se constituyan en obstáculos para la atracción de inversión, como bien lo muestra el Índice de Competitividad Global 2016-2017 para Honduras. Estos fenómenos pueden anular el esfuerzo de atraer inversión utilizando incentivos tributarios.

En ese sentido, la propuesta actual del gobierno en ampliar los privilegios fiscales al turismo no respeta los lineamientos descritos anteriormente. Asimismo, contiene dos aspectos que pueden afectar seriamente la transparencia y la gobernabilidad. Primero, la creación del Fondo de Turismo, el cual es una muestra de corporativismo del Estado, pues confluyen intereses privados que manejarán recursos y decisiones públicas, lo que da lugar a un potencial foco de corrupción. El segundo elemento es la posibilidad que dicho ente pueda expropiar tierras que hoy son de propiedad privada o comunitaria, por la existencia de un aparente interés para promover inversiones turísticas. Esto puede dar lugar a abusos significativos y sobre todo falta de certeza sobre la tenencia de la propiedad, lo cual está garantizado en la Constitución de la República.

El gobierno hondureño, promotor del presente anteproyecto de ley de privilegios fiscales al turismo ha sustentado que las medidas permitirán una generación de alrededor de 250 mil empleos en cinco años. Dicha afirmación la sustenta en un estudio no publicado y que aducen fue elaborado por Mckinsey, una consultora privada. No se conoce públicamente ningún análisis realizado por el ente fiscalizador de los tributos del país, el Servicio de Administración de Rentas (SAR), quien incluso, en la iniciativa de ley, ha sido dejado al margen de la supervisión del apropiado uso de dichos privilegios fiscales.

Por todo lo anterior, el Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (Icefi) reitera su llamado para que, por un lado, los organismos Ejecutivo y Legislativo hondureños no continúen promoviendo más privilegios fiscales sin contar con fundamentos técnicos sólidos. Por otro lado, se invita a las autoridades de gobierno, al Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada (COHEP), a los centros de pensamiento y universidades, así como a las organizaciones sociales a aprovechar las recomendaciones del recién publicado Pacto Fiscal para un Desarrollo Sostenible con Transparencia y Rendición de Cuentas, para avanzar hacia un acuerdo fiscal integral que allane el camino para la construcción de una Honduras más democrática, incluyente y justa.

Jonathan Menkos Zeissig
Director ejecutivo, Icefi
jonathan.menkos@icefi.org

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