In the 1750s and 1760s, there was a political slogan popular in America: “No taxation without representation.”

Americans at that time were British citizens. They paid taxes to England, but they had no representation in the Parliament, which was similar to the House and Senate in the United States today. When England passed taxes on sugar, tea, and other items which Americans had to pay, Americans objected to having such laws made by a government in which they had no voice.

The people of Puerto Rico are citizens of the United States, just as the American colonists were citizens of Britain.

Does Puerto Rico pay taxes?

Puerto Rico pays taxes to the United States, too. In 2011, Puerto Rico paid $3.3 billion in taxes to the U.S., about the same amount as Vermont. In 2016, the total was $3.6 billion. Sometimes Puerto Rico pays more than Vermont.

Some of the kinds of taxes paid by the people of Puerto Rico:

  • Social Security taxes
  • payroll taxes
  • import taxes
  • export taxes
  • commodity taxes

Most people in Puerto Rico do not pay Federal income taxes. However, they do pay local income taxes, and in many cases these are higher than Federal income taxes would be. What’s more, nearly half of the people on the mainland do not pay income taxes. They may have to file, but tax credits and deductions mean that many people in the United States do not pay federal income taxes.

So we can see that the people of Puerto Rico, as a group, pay taxes just as other U.S. citizens do.

What about representation?

U.S. citizens living on the mainland are represented in the U.S. government by a president whom they elect, and by senators and congressional representatives whom they elect. These representatives have a voice in the making of laws that affect the daily lives of their constituents, because they are able to vote on those laws.

U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico are represented by a single Resident Commissioner. The first Resident Commissioner, Federico Degetau y González, was elected more than a century ago and served from 1901 to 1905. He didn’t even have a chair to sit in while Congress was meeting, and he remarked that Puerto Rico had been better represented in Spain than in the U.S.

Degetau y González spent several years of his tenure fighting to be allowed to speak in Congress. Today’s Resident Commissioner can speak and can serve on committees, but cannot vote when her vote would make a difference in the outcome.

Just like the Colonial Americans of the 1700s, the people of Puerto Rico do not have adequate representation in the government that collects taxes from them. As a State, Puerto Rico will have the same level of representation as the people living in the 50 states.

It is time for Puerto Rico to become a state.



67 Responses

      • I live in PR, the corruption here is so bad I can’t imagine PR without the FBI. Even our justice system is corrupt. The worse part is that all our representatives are of Puertorican descent. You’d think they’d be more conscience of that fact. I can only imagine this island being independent will on bring more poverty and less opportunities for the people who are remote; especially those living in the mountains furthest from the metropolitan area

        • Both the rich and the poor want to maintain the Commonwealth status quo when it comes to PR sovereignty. The weaker the middle class, the more the rich on the island can continue to stick it to the poor and keep the politicians in their pockets to protect their wealth from federal taxation. Meanwhile the poor in places like Lloren Torres and La Perla take the subsidies provided by the US and enjoy a life free of work or commitment to building a community and a better society. It’s a joke. Always has been and always will be. – Independence seems to be the better solution.

          I’ve been trying to post on this forum since yesterday afternoon. However, the moderator continues to refuse to publish each of my posts so far. So much for the First Amendment. It was that way when I lived on the island from ’96 – ’99. “Shut your mouth, Grigo. You don’t know what you’re talking about.” God forbid someone makes an argument in the name of a collective benefit that helps the entire population.

    • Puerto Rico doesn’t pay taxes like us citizens. Only federal employees have to file at the end of the year. You can’t have the benefits without paying the cost.

      • +1…many articles purposely comfound the issue saying yes the pay social security…so what…they lay that so they can get Medicare

    • Think you mean 3.3 million, not billion :). The corporations pay taxes on profits, but personal taxes ate limited to Medicare/Medicaid, which is mant times less than the social benefits they receive from the US government. They have been represented very well through funding for their education, government, and law enforcement. Perhaps the greatest injustice that they have endured, is the dependency we’ve encouraged by throwing dollars, instead of jobs at their economy.

    • Hello I am nick gero im a african american but alot of people call me nick ger I have moved to puerto rico and I think we should be the 51st state!

  1. In Puerto Rico we pay the same percent of Social Security and Medicare, and have fewer benefits than mainland citizens. Medicare and Social Security are taxes too. Many people in Puerto Rico have to pay federal income taxes too. That is because they received payment from Federal Government or they are privately contracted to work from here to the states. There are more reason, but this two are enough to probe that here in Puerto Rico we have “Taxation without representation”.

    • So you would like to opt out of social security and Medicare? Fine. Most people are collecting more benefits than they paid in. They are not the same as regular taxes where you don’t get your money back ever. They are more like insurance for your age.

      • Actually, that is not true. In 1967 I made my first payments into the system. The value of those dollars were real in that day–a hamburger was 15 cents, the first house my wife and i bought for $12,400 (3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, approximately 1,000 Sq ft), brick. A comprilble house in the area I live would likele be $150,00, more than 10 times what I paid. (You do the math for the hambuger). The devaluation of the dollar over the decades would mean that my modest “contribution” would be 10-15 times the face value if adjusted for inflation.
        Then, if you added a modest interest rate, then what I’ve paid in over my almost 60 years of employment would amount to a staggering pile of money. Maybe a good example to help you understand my point about interest I suggest you look at the interest you will pay on a 30 year home loan.
        Third, if you die as a single person, what you paid in is a gift to social security. I don’t know when the change was made but now a surviving spouse can reap some increase in their benefits, but not the full amount.

  2. Puerto Ricans have served in every major
    war with Honor.Yet we are citizens that can not vote.Humm something wrong.

  3. How are some of the local taxes greater than federal income taxes? Is their top income rate 4%?

    In past elections Puerto Rico chose to remian a territory. They have the benefit of receiving US protection and being able to move to the US. Also, the social security taxes and the payroll taxes are given back to Puerta Rican retirees, and those are probably the largest portion of taxes.

    Puerta Ricans conduct so much business off the books that they would be parylized if they had to pay their fair share of income tax.

    • You’re spot-on target, there Jeff Creedle! This article is oversimplifies and rationalizes the plight of Puerto Ricans! They enjoy all the advantages of being US citizens without paying Federal Taxes for the privilege.

        • Only $1000 per person, including business, payroll, and corporate taxes? That includes US gov. workers who pay US taxes. They still get Social Security and Medicare? Holy Cow, all the benefits and non of the costs!!! People in the mainland would love to pay that.

  4. I knew a fellow sailor when I was in the Navy who was from Puerto Rico and his family still lived there. He said that
    every year during the election, it is put out to the people to vote on whether or not they want to become a state and
    every year it is voted down. So it seems that the people who want to become a state are a minority.

      • That’s because they are bankrupt now and want us to bail them out. We should just emancipate the place and be done with it, or convert it into a huge military installation. More Puerto Ricans live here than in Puerto Rico. Doesn’t sound lime such a great place to me, or they wouldn’t leave. No industry, commerce or real infrastructure. More liability than anything.

        • Wow, that is such a persuasive argument. I am really blown away by the logic. So citizens left the original 13 states and moved into the territories, but there were still more citizens in the original 13 states than the territories, and that meant when the territories were ready for statehood it should have been denied because having less people than the whole U.S. must have meant the territories were not such a great place. If I can follow this amazing logic, all travel and migration between territories and states means territories are bad places and we should have denied statehood to the 32 territories that became states. Gee, how come no one ever explained that before? And since Congress created the local government that has gone bankrupt, and gave that local government the power to tax the citizens, and that revenue is used by the local government to act on behalf of Congress and provide government services as a surrogate for Congress, now that the local government has gone bankrupt, is restoring sound fiscal and budget practices bailing out the citizens or is it bailing out Congress for allowing territorial government it created to spend beyond its means? Speaking of bailing out, what about the 18,000 U.S. citizens who were drafted to bail out the U.S. in WWI, or the tens of thousands drafted to serve in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, or the volunteers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan at a rate higher than most states? And what about the economic impact of federal tax shelters for big U.S. companies who evaded billions in taxes each year for 30 years and profited way out of proportion to local beenfits, while making it harder for small businesses without tax shelters to compete and succeed? Who was getting bailed out in that scam? Answer: The politicians in Congress and its surrogate local government who were getting campaign donations from companies exploiting “job creation” tax evasion laws.

          • Mr. Hills thank you for putting much better logic into this dialogue. Mainland Americans don’t seem to have all the facts when it comes to PR. Congress set up PR’s government since it was surrendered to the U.S after the war with Spain. So the island has a long relationship with the U.S. The U.S. has used the island for military strategic purposes for a long time. Like you mentioned the U.S.A. needed more men in the war, so what better place to get instant recruits by making PR’s citizens. So it’s easy for some non knowledgeable Americans to think that Puerto Ricans are just using the United States and taking money from them. When in fact the US made and gave PR concessions for allowing them to use the island and its people I gather. The islands demise has been slowly geminating since Bill Clinton remove the corporate tax incentives for a lot of American companies that had factories and businesses on the island. Due to congress taking away the corporate incentives, major corporation left. This left the island with high unemployment and no way of generating taxes, since most people just left the island back to the USA for jobs. The municipalities and infrastructure collapsed. Not to mention mismanagement or lack of and corrupt governance. I sincerely hope that the island can get back on its feet, the two storms did not help, along with the bond fiasco. PR was taken advantage of by some hedged fund investment companies. So despite all this I think if the islanders vote for statehood congress should give it to them.

  5. Puerto Rico does not pay personal federal income tax to the United States on their Puerto Rican income, yet they receive many benefits from the United States. Yes, they do pay a Portion of their Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid taxes and they are also entitled to receive those benefits as is any other citizen in a state of the United States of American.
    It is said that although Puerto Rico voted this year to become a state, that it will never happen because President Trump will never approve because of Puerto Rico’s democrat (socialist- in my opinion) voting and mostly Spanish speaking population. Hmmmm, if this is the reason- why didn’t President Obama wave his magic wand and make them a state in 2012 when they also voted for statehood? Could it be because it takes more than their desire and the ok by the President of the United States? Could it be because there are regulations such as they must be financially solvent and agree to abide by our constitution and laws to be considered for statehood? Puerto Rico does not fill either of those.

    • Actually, Congress admits new states, and there are no requirements to be solvent. It is required that a territory have a constitution approved by Congress in order to become a state. Puerto Rico’s constitution was approved in 1952.

  6. you don’t pay federal income tax, therefore you will have limited representation compared to a mainland citizen. want to change that? vote to become a real state and pay full taxes, then you’ll be represented fairly

    • Puerto Rico pays Social Security and payroll taxes, as well as income taxes on income from the U.S. states. Voters chose statehood in 2017 and in 2012.

      • We all pay Soc Sec and payroll taxes as well as state and local taxes. PR Residents do not pay Federal Taxes on their PR Income.. only income they derive from US sources. They are getting the benefits of protection from the US without paying for them like the rest of the US.. They want voting rights then they should become a legal state and pay their fair share of Federal Taxes!

        • They fight with us in war. They are not paying for our protection. Plus we charge their citizens roughly 20% for the same goods here in the states. Must of their goods come from the states, btw

  7. The Puerto Rican governor Carmen Yulin Cruz’s words of criticism against the Trump administration, are not only disgraceful; but a direct insult to the millions of Americans who voted him in office, as well as a slap in the face for the military and FEMA workers helping with the disaster– I am disgusted and will never visit Puerto Rico because of it, and, believe all Puerto Rican’s are the same as their elected governor UNGRATEFUL! GROSS! UNAMERICAN……shame on all of you.

    • The author would like to equate paying “local” taxes and “social security” tax as if it were a federal contribution and it isn’t.
      I agree with Maria that Puerto Rico’s governor criticism is not warranted. Somebody should inform this dummy that if you don’t contribute to providing FEDERAL TAXES then you shouldn’t be receiving the benefits paid for by FEDERAL TAXES. The failed leadership if Puerto Rico and made it into a bankrupt s-hole. As I tell my children, you can have a say in the decision making when you step up and pay your own way. The same goes for the children managing Puerto Rico.

  8. What does the US “mainland” have to gain by adding PR to the Union? Not much. Before Maria, it’s crippling debt would have been absorbed by the US govt and passed along to the taxpayers. Now with Maria, they’re relying on the US more than ever because they can’t even manage themselves, let alone a budget of any kind. I can’t imagine what would happen if PR were an independent nation, they wouldn’t be able to scrap together a fraction of what the US govt is doing for them. Any chance we’ll see all of the “aid” reimbursed? Not in our life time.

    • The United States will never give up Puerto Rico. For what to have another Cuba at its doorstep? US is making money off of Puerto Rico to the tune of some 3 billion a year…

  9. “Most people in Puerto Rico do not pay Federal income taxes. However, they do pay local income taxes,”
    Who gives a crap! Local taxes stay local. I as an American pay all the same taxes INCLUDING FEDERAL. “Most people in Puerto Rico do not pay Federal income taxes” Well the author would like you to believe this is the same and it isn’t. What Puerto Rico actually wants is representation without taxation. To be more specific they want FEDERAL DOLLARS where little to none are contributed. The local taxes paid are kept local and spent local. America NEVER sees a penny of those. Social Security taxes are collected and paid back directly accordingly to earnings. Lets be honest, Puerto Rico is a bankrupt s-hole and only wants to formally become a state for more handouts and nothing more. The United States need less freeloaders and not more. Want to become the 51st state then pay federal taxes like us Americans who actually work and contribute.

    • Kent the Trumptard..Educate yourself on Puerto Rico’s history so that you can speak with intelligence on the matter instead of ignorance…from a Economist in Puerto Rico:

      Ms. (Dr.) Rivera Negrón is a full professor at the University of Puerto Rico, with a Ph.D. in Economic Development. She is also President of the Association of Puerto Rican Economists.
      Her take:

      Really, we want everything done for us?
      Since 1917, as U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans have proudly served in our nation’s armed forces. Around 700,000 of our soldiers have participated, with distinction and courage, in all U.S. theaters of wars, including the 1st and 2nd World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
      The famous 65th Infantry Regiment, a distinguished unit of the U. S. Army that served in the Korean War, was mostly composed by Puerto Rican soldiers, hence their nickname, the “Borinqueneers”. It is one of the most revered unit in the history of entire U.S. Armed Forces.
      Moreover, Puerto Rico is a captive market of the U.S.: the 5th largest market in the world for U.S. products. 85% of everything purchased and consumed in Puerto Rico, comes from the U.S.
      All of these products are wildly overpriced, thanks to the “price protection” of the Jones Act, aka the Law of Cabotage.
      For the past few years, consumer spending on the island has hovered at $35 billion per year.
      Thanks to the Jones Act, the prices paid by Puerto Rican consumers are roughly 20% higher than on the mainland.
      20% of $35 billion (the annual consumer spending) is $7 billion. This is the amount of excess prices on goods paid every year, by Puerto Rican consumers.
      85% (the percentage of goods that come from the US) of $7 billion is $5.95 billion.
      So Puerto Ricans pay roughly $5.95 billion in annual excess profits to US corporations, thanks to the Jones Act. That amount exceeds the $4.6 billion in federal benefits that the US “gives” to Puerto Rico. And this is counting just the excess profits, on top of the original profits.
      Additionally, 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 3 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).
      With facts and figures on a detailed chart, Prof. Rivera Negrón demonstrated one astounding fact: that in a typical year (2008), the island received a total of $4.6 billion in federal dollars, while contributing $71.6 billion dollars back to the US economy.

      Futhermore…read up on the US policy and history after 1898 for Puerto Rico …you’ll start to see the picture if you are as bright as you claim to be….better yet, start with the indigenous people who lived on the island(Arawak/Tainos) before your hero Columbus claimed the land for Spain. Over 500 hundred years of Spanish & U.S. rule will do wonders to a populace psyche.

      • The Puerto Rican’s that aren’t receiving the Earned Income or Child Tax Credits, are they paying Federal Income Tax? I thought you said only those with Investments are paying? You’re contradicting yourself. It sounds as though Puerto Rican’s are Lucky to be able to Pay and receive Social Security and Medicare, because if the Government of Puerto Rico collected it they would only spend it leaving the people with nothing!! It’s great that Puerto Rican’s serve in the US Military also, because than those of us paying Federal Income Taxes don’t have to pay to protect the Island. As far as Cost of Living goes, compare to States like Hawaii and California. If you live in a very desirable location, you’re going to pay more. I’m curious about your Poverty Rates: I just read where my Senator was trying to hurry Medicaid payments, which are for the poor and yet no one has spoke about that; also what is your Homeless rate because unfortunately the Homeless are not included in our numbers. Last but not least, it was announced that Puerto Rican’s voted for Hillary Clinton and got the delegates from that so how are you not represented? You may not have a Comgressman but you’re still being represented. If you’re that unhappy move somewhere else. I’m still waiting for many Actors to move to Canada, so maybe you should try there.

  10. According to Wikipedia Puerto Rico receives about 21 billion dollars from the US federal government annually. But according to this article it only pays about 3.3 billion in Federal taxes annually. The state of Michigan receives 17.7 billion and pays 77 billion. My question would be is there really taxation without representation. Or does Puerto Rico just want the benifits without taxation.

    • Then of course ! If shoe were on other foot, you’d have a complete different outlook ! right ? OPINIONS ARE LIKE ! everybodys got one or maybe two.

    • They told Luis Munoz Marin, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” He replied, “But that’s what I want.” Hence here we are, supporting a welfare state that can’t pay it’s debts, wants Uncle Sugar to bail them out, yet doesn’t want the risk or benefit of becoming a state.

  11. Well that articleis inaccurate and full of hslf can you say p.r paid as much in tax as vermont.first of all vermont has approx 650k people where as pr has 3.7 million kind of like comparing a orange to a trophy watermelon.thats $5112.00 per person in vermont vs puerto rico at $93.00 per person,so that puts vermont that your comparing to at paying 55 times social security and medicad are insurances and while i cant find exact figers im willing to bet more was sent to p.r then pr sent in.also comparing helping florida and texas vs p.r florida paid 37.64 billion in federal tax in 2016 texas paid 52.13 billion so even using your 4.5 billion dollar number which was just for insurance how can you say you deserve the same relif.YOU DONT PAY FEDERAL TAX.your are asking for money that you dont contribute to.even your twisted misrepresentation dont add up.lets level the playing field oregon is close per capita as p.r at 3.5 million people 2016 oregon paid $31219148.00 to us goc while pr paid $3524557humm still dont seem to see how your comparision is want uncle sams help in tbe future,maybe consider contributing.what your saying is like a guy without insurance crashing his car and then crying that geico paid to fix the other guys car and not yours how are you entitled to use HIS insurane to cover your expences

    • Also you fail to mention that us gov.funds 21 billion in welfare each year to puerto rico.hummm but still not paying federal income tax and stillgot ur hand out smh

      • Puerto Rico pays 20% more for the exact same goods we buy in the states, most of their goods coming from the US, which is like 80%..

  12. ‘Bona fide’ residents of Puerto Rico who do pay federal taxes either because they are currently serving in (or are retired from) the armed forces of the United States, or because they are currently working (or are retired from) the federal government, have to do so according to the terms of Section 933 of the Internal Revenue Code and under less than equal conditions.

  13. What all these people who say “pay federal income taxes if you want to be a state” don’t seem to understand is that PR is asking to become a state….and consequently pay federal income taxes like any other resident of a state. What PR pays now in Federal income tax is irrelevant unless they are asking to be some special version of a state…..which they are not.

    Stop calling the home of fellow Amerians a “shit hole”. We are all on the same team, I give no Fu*ks who you vote for, we’re all Americans.

  14. Every time I try to reply or post something, the moderator takes it down. I guess the truth is a bad thing.

  15. From my three years on the island (’96-’99) this is how the tax system functioned. Initially, Hacienda made some arbitrary and capricious calculation that worked out to XXX number of dollars withheld from your gross earnings. Unfortunately, the calculation was not equitable. I was a GS-13 step 4 with no dependents and I did not own property. A friend of mine who worked in the same agency was also a GS-13 step 4 with no dependents and he did not own property either. Yet the gross disparity in the amount of money withheld by the Commonwealth from our paychecks was very apparent. When the federal government finally stepped in and put a stop to it, we started paying some form of AMT which was calculated based on locality, gross compensation, and any deductions claimed. When I filed taxes at the end of the year, the US Treasury would send me a check for the total amount of funds withheld from my paycheck. This amount was supposed to be equal to or more than the amount due to the Commonwealth or Hacienda. Yet time and again, I was told the formula was wrong and I would have to pay an additional $1.5 to 2K in taxes to Puerto Rico with no explanation as to the increase. This was all to live on an island with rampant crime, 45% unemployment, and an economy based on under-the-table cash transactions which benefited the working poor and the rich but left the middle class holding the bag. The streets were littered with trash, feces, and dead animals and most days you carried a gun to use the ATM in Isla Verde. Even after I left the island, I was audited for every year I was there and eventually required to pay $41.00 to the tax authority. I spent more time sending the payment by RMRRR because most of the Ricans working at Hacienda would steal the checks and claim no payment was ever made.

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