The Business, Entrepreneurship & Tax Law Review


Puerto Ricans are United States citizens by birthright. The island itself is neither a state nor an independent country, but rather, a territory of the United States. As a territory, Puerto Rico holds a unique tax status, and its residents are exempt from some federal and income taxes. Regardless, Puerto Ricans contribute significantly to the federal treasury by paying customs taxes, federal commodity taxes, and all payroll taxes (also known as FICA taxes), which include Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment Compensation. Yet, its residents are still subject to discrimination on the basis of residency. In this article, I will explore how, despite being U.S. citizens, paying steep taxes, and contributing to the Social Security trust fund, Puerto Ricans have been deprived of equal financial assistance from the government. This is exemplified by Puerto Rico’s exclusion from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. Looking past the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection issue presented by this deprivation, I aim to highlight how the federal government takes advantage of Puerto Rico’s political status by taxing its citizens without adequate representation in Congress and how the federal government im-poses limitations on when and where Puerto Ricans may receive financial assistance from the government, such as SSI benefits, which are easily accessible to U.S. citizens living in the 50 states and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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