Colombia’s Congress will convene extra sessions during its formal Christmas recess to allow priority debates on the country’s ongoing peace process and an impending tax reform.
Congress’ sessions have been extended until December 23 after which the lawmakers can choose either 27th and 28th of December for another session, Congress President Mauricio Lizcano specified after a meeting between Santos and his coalition U Party.
“In a first period going until 23 December we will study the issue of tax reform and the first debate of the amnesty law,” said Lizcano to Caracol News.
Particularly the ratification of the amnesty law has an imminent priority because it is impeding the demobilization of the FARC, the country’s largest guerrilla group that reached a revised people deal with the government on November 24.
This was recently held back after the Constitutional Court delayed the validation of Congress’ ratification of the peace deal and related priority legislation until December 12.
Lizcano explained that the first sessions will be “to study the tax reform responsibly,” a wide-ranging plan which was presented to Congress in October that seeks to tackle the country’s budget problems caused by dropping commodity prices.
The reform, which must be approved by year-end to kick-in next year, will raise value-added tax to 19% from 16%, excluding basic products like food and medications.
It also seeks to widen the base for income tax contributions to add an additional 440,000 citizens and establishes 4 to 9 year prison terms for tax evasion.
The reform will lower income tax on businesses to 32% beginning in 2019, down from the 43% they would pay in coming years without the reform, Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas said. Companies currently pay 40% income tax.
After its shortened recess, Congress will return on January 16 “to work around the theme of peace,” said Lizcano.