World June 27, 2023 | 9:41 am

The Dominican diaspora defends Christmas grace after questioning from the commercial sector

Santo Domingo.- “The Christmas grace for Dominicans residing abroad is not negotiable,” stated Zenaida Méndez, President and Founder of the National Caucus of Dominican Women in the United States, in response to questioning from the local commercial sector regarding the tax exemption granted for 27 years. This benefit allows Dominicans abroad to bring in items up to a certain value without paying import taxes.

Méndez defended the exemption, emphasizing that it has been in place for a long time and serves as one of the few gestures from the Dominican government towards the diaspora, which contributes significantly to the country through remittances. The Dominican community in the United States exceeds two million people.

A recent study commissioned by the National Organization of Commercial Companies (ONEC) estimated the impact of the Christmas grace period, which extends from December 1 to January 15, for items up to $4,000. The study projected that the value of products brought in by beneficiaries of the exemption during this period ranged between $92 million and $488 million. The study suggests that these figures represent the potential loss of sales for local businesses, assuming that without the exemption, these items would have been purchased from local retailers, although this assumption may not necessarily be true.

The study also estimated that the government missed out on tax revenues ranging from $54 million to $289 million.

There is also opposition to a bill currently being discussed in the Chamber of Deputies, which aims to extend the grace period to the summer months, from July 1 to August 15.

Zenaida Méndez firmly expressed her stance, stating, “Now, when they [local businesses] can make more money, that’s when they are complaining. So, I don’t see any room for negotiation on this; it is non-negotiable.”

Méndez, who immigrated to the United States with her family in 1969, was honored with the Medal of Merit last year, the highest award bestowed by the Dominican Government and the Ministry for Women.

Rafael Núñez, the founder of the Dominican-American Association of the Midwest in the United States, views the criticism of the Christmas grace as myopic. He points out that the Dominican community abroad, numbering nearly 3 million people, contributes to the Dominican economy through remittances and spending when they visit the country. Remittances alone amounted to $9.86 billion last year. Núñez suggests that considering the socioeconomic and cultural contributions of the diaspora, the potential impact on the local market is minimal.

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