On March 12, 2020, the Governor of Puerto Rico declared a state of emergency across the island amidst the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. Although the number of confirmed cases in Puerto Rico remains low, the Governor issued an Executive Order on March 15, 2020, ordering a curfew for all citizens from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., during which everyone must remain inside their homes, and ordered the closure of all private and government operations, except for those related to essential services until March 30, 2020. No persons are allowed outside their homes between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m., save for those working in security, health or food distribution, or in specific circumstances (such as, purchasing food or essentials). Violators may face a six-month jail term or a fine of up to $5,000.
The lockdown has impacted businesses across the island. However, the government has responded to the uncertainty faced by businesses by granting the following relief measures.
Puerto Rico State Department
All legal entities with 2019 annual fees and annual reports due on or before April 15, 2020, now have until May 15, 2020, to pay the annual fees and file the corresponding annual report.
Puerto Rico Treasury Department
- Sales and Use Tax (“SUT”)
- Monthly SUT Return (Form SC 2915) – the filing for February 2020, is extended until April 20, 2020. Similarly, the due date for any return that must accompany the Monthly SUT Return is extended for one month.
- Semi-monthly SUT Payments – no penalties will be imposed for noncompliance with semi-monthly SUT payments relating to March 2020, provided that the total SUT owed for said months is paid with the Monthly SUT Return for those periods.
- Tax Returns, Statements, Forms and Tax Payments
- Disregarded Entities and Other Taxpayers with Returns Due during March 2020 – the due date for filing the 2019 Tax Return is extended until April 15, 2020. Payment for the tax liability is due on April 15, 2020.
- Taxpayers with April 15, 2020 Due Dates – the due date for filing and payment of any tax returns due on April 15, 2020, is extended to May 15, 2020.
- Tax Returns for All Other Taxes
- The due date and payment date for all other tax returns is extended for one additional month. A request for extension is not required.
- This extension applies to all other tax returns due between March 15, 2020, and April 15, 2020.
- Bonds and Licenses
- Any bonds or licenses from the Treasury Department set to expire between March 15 and March 31, 2010, will be automatically extended until April 30, 2020.
- Payment Plans
- Those taxpayers that currently have a payment plan in place with the Treasury Department and are facing economic hardships due to the impact of COVID-19 and the Governor’s Executive Order are not required to make any installment payments corresponding to the period ranging from March 16, 2020, to April 30, 2020. The taxpayers will not be subject to any fines, penalties or interest for failure to pay during this period.
- Informative Returns
- No penalties will be imposed with respect to the filing of Informative Returns for tax year 2019, so long as these returns are filed no later than April 25, 2020.
Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions
The Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (“OCIF”) has issued an automatic extension until April 15, 2020, for all filings due between March 16 and April 14. This includes deadlines to answer complaints and requests for information, as well as deadlines to file financial statements and license renewal documents. OCIF has instructed interested parties to call on March 31, when its office will reopen, to request information about how to file documents electronically.
The Puerto Rico Judicial Branch ceased operations until March 30, except for the management of new criminal cases and urgent proceedings, such as issuing protective orders to victims of violence.
Also, the Puerto Rico Supreme Court issued an automatic extension until April 15, 2020, for all filings due between March 16 and April 14. This includes jurisdictional and discretionary deadlines before the Courts of First Instance, the Court of Appeals and the Puerto Rico Supreme Court.
The online docketing system for Courts of First Instance, known as “SUMAC,” will remain available to file motions. However, parties should expect delays in their consideration by the Courts.
The physical mailbox at the entrance of the Court of Appeals will be available to drop documents from Monday to Friday between 8:30am and 5:00pm. Nevertheless, there is no exception in the Executive Order covering court filings, so the mailbox should only be used in case of an extremely urgent matter.
The Federal District Court for the District of Puerto Rico will be operating partially and issued an automatic extension until April 10, 2020, for all the filings due between March 16 and April 9. The online docketing system for the federal court, known as CM/ECF, will remain available to file motions. However, parties should expect delays in their consideration by the Court.
Air and Sea Transportation
All airports in Puerto Rico continue to operate, although the Puerto Rico National Guard is screening airport passengers by taking the temperature of every arriving passenger and inquiring about their health. People with a temperature of 100.3 degrees Fahrenheit or more are referred to the Department of Health for medical evaluation. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Puerto Rico, the Governor has asked the Federal Aviation Administrator to suspend all domestic and international flights for 14 days.
Since March 13, 2020, cruise ships are not allowed to dock in Puerto Rico. The ferry service to and from Dominican Republic has also been suspended.
Maritime and air cargo vessels continue to operate normally.
The Puerto Rico Senate has approved a package of measures that would halt utility billing and would provide $500 payments to workers from businesses shut down during this emergency period.
The Puerto Rico Treasury Department, during the period ranging from March 23, 2020, through April 30, 2020, is exempting from SUT the following essential items: hand sanitizer, soap, shampoo, wet wipes, disposable tissue, masks, isopropyl alcohol, disinfectants, antiseptics, household cleaning products, vinyl gloves, analgesics and acetaminophen or ibuprofen products and cold medication, including antihistaminic. Also, a temporary exemption from SUT on prepared foods will be in place from March 20, 2020, through April 19, 2020.
This alert is intended to bring to your attention current developments in the law and is not intended as legal advice for any particular client or particular situation. The information is current as of March 19, 2020. Given the nature of this situation, new measures are continuously being implemented. The information provided herein may not constitute the most up-to-date information. Please consult with counsel regarding any specific questions you may have.
As the situation surrounding COVID – 19 evolves, we remain focused on our clients, employees, partners, and communities. Our DLA Piper teams across the world are working with clients, regulators and various authorities to produce a variety of client updates and webinars to assist decision makers, including in-house legal teams, on how to navigate this incredibly challenging period. We encourage you to reach out to your DLA Piper partner and visit our Coronavirus Resource Center.