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La evasión tributaria y el uso de guaridas fiscales

Recientemente se destapó un nuevo escándalo denominado “Paradise Papers” cuando la firma de abogados Appleby fue objeto del hackeo de información que posteriormente se compartió con el Consocio Internacional de Periodistas de Investigación.    Este nuevo escándalo se sumó al de los “Panama Papers”, relacionado con el ataque informático a la empresa de abogados Mossack Fonseca.    Los datos obtenidos en ambos casos destaparon a una gran cantidad de individuos, con cuantiosas fortunas, que han recurrido al uso de estas firmas de abogados para evadir el pago de impuestos utilizando guaridas fiscales.

Las empresas de abogados mencionadas y otras, con el apoyo de las grandes compañías de contadores públicos, se dedican desde hace tiempo a brindar asesoría a los dueños de grandes capitales transnacionales y recientemente a los nacionales, para mover sus recursos a entidades off-shore o territorios en los cuales se pueden beneficiar de regímenes de baja tributación.  La fórmula no parece ilegal en forma intuitiva, dado que un empresario o capitalista, conforme los fundamentos de la economía de mercado, coloca su capital en localidades donde obtenga un mayor nivel de rentabilidad.  Sin embargo, el problema se encuentra en los esquemas que dichos bufetes recomiendan y que conllevan procesos de evasión y defraudación fiscal, logrando que las obligaciones que debieran cumplir los empresarios en un país, no las atiendan, por medio del uso de mecanismos ilícitos.

Los movimientos de capital que se realizan al margen de los procedimientos de la economía ética de mercado se denominan movimientos ilícitos de capital y tienen como propósitos ya sea esconder recursos generados de manera ilícita o evitar el pago de impuestos.   Los primeros se conocen como Hot Money e identifican los flujos en los que los tenedores buscan principalmente el anonimato, por ser producto del tráfico de drogas, contrabando, tráfico de personas; corrupción; venta de armas, entre otros.   Los propietarios de estos capitales no están interesados en el rendimiento, sino en que el territorio en donde coloquen los recursos garantice el secreto bancario.   Por ello, la OCDE y la mayor parte de los países del mundo condenan la existencia de localidades que no privilegien la transparencia financiera, debido a que indiscutiblemente son guaridas para esconder recursos ilegales.

La segunda forma de movimientos ilícitos de capital es más sofisticada e incluye el uso de modernas técnicas recomendadas a los empresarios para aparentar transacciones, en general, por debajo de su precio de mercado a fin de desplazar las ganancias hacia localidades en donde no existe el pago de impuesto sobre la renta o sus valores de cobro son muy bajos.   La más utilizada de estas formas es la subestimación o sobreestimación de los precios de transferencia, por medio de una facturación apócrifa que conlleva a que los exportadores o importadores no reporten ganancias en los países, mientras que las mismas se trasladan hacia las guaridas fiscales.    En el territorio centroamericano la práctica más común es la subfacturación de exportaciones, las cuales tienen como destino intermedio una empresa radicada en una  guarida fiscal, allí son refacturadas a su precio normal y reexportadas hacia el destino final.   De acuerdo a un informe de Podestá et al para Cepal (2017) los principales productos que en Centroamérica observan dicho comportamiento irregular son los frutos comestibles, el café, las prendas y complementos de vestir y las máquinas y aparatos eléctricos, especialmente en Costa Rica durante la época de Intel.  En el caso de importaciones los procesos de distorsión comercial se dan primariamente con combustibles.

El manejo del precio de las exportaciones, da como consecuencia que en los países centroamericanos los exportadores reporten casi siempre pérdidas, debido a que por la refacturación las ganancias se quedan en la guarida fiscal y las mismas no son objeto de gravamen tributario.   Esta práctica es ilegal porque se incurre en un mecanismo que induce al engaño a la administración tributaria para evitar el pago de impuestos; y aun cuando los abogados y contadores tratan de vender el procedimiento como un mecanismo legítimo de elusión fiscal, es una técnica de evasión fiscal.

Conforme al Global Financial Integrity (GFI) el país de la región que reporta un mayor nivel de flujos ilícitos de capital es Costa Rica, con alrededor del 19.9% de su PIB para 2014, seguido de Honduras con 16.4% del PIB.    En promedio los países de la región observaron en 2014 flujos ilícitos de capitales del orden del 8.8% del PIB.

Tabla 1.  Centroamérica: flujos ilícitos de capitales para el período 2005-2014.   Cifras en millones de US dólares y porcentajes del PIB.

Fuente: Icefi con datos del Global Financial Integrity.

Los flujos ilícitos de capital antes mencionado implican primariamente evasión del ISR, por lo que utilizando las tasas marginales vigentes en 2014, se puede estimar que se dejaron de percibir unos USD5,376 millones, alrededor del 2.5% del PIB, siendo Costa Rica, Honduras y Nicaragua los países que reportan mayores niveles de pérdida fiscal por movimientos ilícitos de capital.

Gráfico 1.  Centroamérica: Estimación de la pérdida recaudatoria en ISR por flujos ilícitos de capitales en 2014.  Cifras en millones de US dólares y porcentajes del PIB.

Fuente: Icefi con datos del Global Financial Integrity.

Es pertinente indicar que existen otros flujos que salen de los países tratando de evitar el pago de impuestos, al realizar inversiones aparentemente lícitas, pero con el fin de que las ganancias se mantengan en el exterior y no pagar los impuestos definidos.  Esta situación no es ilegal, aunque si inmoral, porque dichas personas sí exigen y utilizan los servicios públicos pero no pagan por ellos.  Para atacar dicha situación desde hace mucho tiempo en los países desarrollados, se definió la existencia de un sistema de renta mundial para el ISR, basado en que todos los ingresos obtenidos por la inversión de capital, incluso en guaridas fiscales, deban pagar impuestos en el lugar de residencia de la persona.

Por lo anterior, resulta urgente para las autoridades de hacienda de la región y para la sociedad en general, iniciar la discusión y las transformaciones legales que permitan, el fortalecimiento de las administraciones tributarias para combatir los flujos ilícitos de capital por un lado, y el establecimiento de un sistema de renta mundial que obligue al segmento de empresarios que no pagan impuestos por manejar sus capitales en ubicaciones off-shore o en guaridas fiscales, a fin que contribuyan conforme lo establecido en el mandato constitucional relativo a financiar el mantenimiento de los servicios públicos de los cuales se benefician.


Elaborado por: Abelardo Medina Bermejo

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