Walmart Puerto Rico Trial Slated to Start Tuesday
SAN JUAN – The civil trial in the lawsuit that Walmart Puerto Rico filed against the government over the hike in the tangible property tax is slated to begin Tuesday.
During a pre-trial conference Monday held by Judge José A. Fusté, government lawyers expressed concern about divulging confidential information, but Fusté replied the trial was public.
“My obligation is to do this respectfully,” he said.
At least 11 witnesses will be asked to testify, including Government Development Bank Melba Acosta and Treasury Secretary Juan Zaragoza.
Fusté said he was going to try to protect the confidentiality of certain documents that the GDB did not want to be made public. The bank is currently in negotiations with creditors in an effort to restructure the island’s debt.
Walmart sued the Treasury Department, contending that Act 72, adopted by the Legislature in May 2015, unconstitutionally singles out Walmart for inequitable tax treatment.
Act 72 increases the rate at which corporate property arriving from abroad is taxed, from 2 percent to 6.5 percent on entities doing more than $2.75 billion in business on the island.
Walmart alleges the new tax rate will amount to more than 91 percent of its net income in Puerto Rico. Should net income fall, says Walmart, the tax might actually exceed it.
Walmart says the new tax violates the commerce clause and the equal protection clauses.
The government contends a federal statute prevents lawsuits that seek to restrain the collection of any tax imposed by the laws of Puerto Rico.