The Laredo Chamber of Commerce hosted a meeting on Thursday, February 3, 2011, to discuss rumored legislation that calls for elimination of manifiestos (manifiesto is the title given to the document that allows citizens of other countries to claim rebates on state sales taxes paid). The meeting was brought about at the request of long-time Laredo Chamber member Larry Norton, a downtown merchant, and was coordinated by local custom broker Hector Farias. In attendance, in addition to approximately 25 merchants, were State Rep. Richard Raymond, City Manager Carlos Villarreal, and City Council members Cindy Liendo Espinoza and Juan Narvaez. Miguel Conchas, President and CEO for the Laredo Chamber of Commerce was present in representation of the organization.
The meeting started with a heated discussion regarding the impact of elimination of manifiestos to Laredo’s (and Texas) retail and wholesale industries. State Representative Raymond soon explained to the group largely represented by retailers and wholesalers that whereas he was completely in support of the local industry, it was the larger majority of members of the House in Austin that needed convincing. He added with little reservation that, given the condition of state finances and a not-too friendly stance by many towards what many associate to immigration problems, it would be necessary to present a viable option. Villarreal also added that the City’s interest was in eliminating, or at least sizably reducing, the existing abuse that currently exists, i.e., rebates on merchandise that does not leave the country.
Rick Norton, a local downtown retailer then proposed the following recommendations:
• That the law be modified to require one manifiesto per receipt/bill of sale (currently up to six receipts are allowed per manifiesto)
• That the fee per stamp charged be raised to $3.20 (currently it is $1.60) as recommended by the State Comptroller – I believe this is the fee paid to the state
• That a minimum purchase of $200 to $300 be established as minimum for processing a manifiesto.
As he explained – “If this is adopted, then everybody wins.” The group agreed that the state would stand to increase its share of revenues, better control would be gained since the abuse seems to stem from people that collect receipts for “small” purchases, and custom brokers that process manifiestos would continue to operate the system and not lose that process altogether. The group further reasoned that these recommendations seemed plausible since their major concern was to protect large-quantity buyers.
A caveat, Representative Raymond explained, would be to get merchants from other border communities to support the recommendations so that a unified front can eventually be presented to the Legislature. Mr. Villarreal added that a better system to guarantee that purchased merchandise leaves the country would also have to be implemented (that question remains pending).
The Laredo Chamber will continue to monitor developments regarding this matter to safeguard the interests of its membership.
The Laredo Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1915, is Laredo’s longest standing business organization. It is one of 16 chambers in the state of Texas that carries the distinguished U.S. Chamber accreditation seal, and only one of 6 with a 4-star rating. It currently consists of 750 members representative of all industries in the community. For membership information contact the Laredo Chamber at 956-722-9895.