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Expats would see the new tax law in its many forms
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Laura Chinchilla is quick to point out that her proposed tax plan only represents a 1 percent increase over the existing sales tax. What she is counting on, however, is the wider applicability of the proposal, which becomes a value-added tax.

The proposal contains some surprises and is weighted heavily toward low-income earners.

The exact wording of the tax still is under discussion in the legislature, which may give initial approval this week or next. From what has been published so far, these appear to be the potential impacts on expats living here:

• The tax proposal levies an assessment for the first time on home rentals. A $1,500-a-month rental would generate a tax of $210. Any property with a monthly
automatic teller
rent of less than about $1,430 would be exempt from the tax, which is keyed to the value of two base salaries, now 721,200 colons.

• When an expat goes to an automatic teller, the tax will be collected on the commission the local bank charges for the transaction. If the commission is $3.50,
the tax will be 49 cents. Banks also will have to charge the 14 percent tax on safety deposit box rentals.

• Monthly electrical and water bills with usage more than a minimal amount also will be taxed.

• The tax proposal will add from about 8 to 11.46 percent to the cost of a new home, according to the Cámera Costarricense de Construcción. The proposed law does exempt for 18 months certain architectural and survey services and construction work.

• The transfer tax on the sale of a home worth more than 50 million colons (about $100,000) would be increased to 3 percent from the current 1.5 percent.

• The importation of a shipping container would not appear to be subject to the tax, but exporting a container, perhaps with furniture and personal possessions, would incur a tax.

• A $50 visit to a private physician would generate a
tax of $7. Ditto for a visit to a dentist. Foreigners who visit Costa Rica specifically for some form of medical, dental, cosmetic or other treatment, also face a tax assessment that may be in mid three figures.

• Plumbers, carpenters and others who are on contract also will be obliged to assess a 14 percent tax
unless they are salaried. In that case, their company collects the tax.

• Anyone who works on a contract instead of for a fee will have to collect and remit a 14 percent tax on their services. For expats, that does not mean a household gardener because that service is specifically exempted from the tax as one of 267 such items. Real estate broker services are included specifically in the proposed law.

• To avoid persons ducking the services tax by hiring professionals in other countries, offshore work also will be taxed at 20 percent, according to the proposal.

This proposal might be litigated because it seems to be counter to The Central American Free Trade Treaty which encourages offshore services.
• What the government calls a luxury vehicle,
anything worth more than about $38,000, is subject to
luxury car
a 50 percent additional cost each year when the owner pays the road tax. If the owner would normally pay 1 million colons in annual tax, the amount is increased to 1.5 million colons, about $3,000. In addition there is a half percent increase to 3 percent in the vehicle
transfer tax and additional costs to import a vehicle.

• The proposed law levies a 2 percent tax on private school tuition more than 110,000 colons (about $218) a month.

• There are 32 different colegios or professional groups in Costa Rica. They range from lawyers and physicians and surgeons to the more obscure Colegio de Profesionales en Ciencias Económicas and Colegio de Profesionales en Nutrición. Services by members of each will be subject to the new value-added tax for professionals. Some, like members of the Colegio de Optometristas, already pay some tax in the frames and lenses they sell. But they would be subject to a value-added tax on their services.

The colegios made pitches to the legislative committee studying the tax plan. Many approved of some form of taxation. Other representatives stressed the value of better collection methods of the current taxes. Odontologists said that the 14 percent value-added tax on their services would diminish the number of Costa Ricans who seek dental help. Only 23 percent are serviced by the Caja Costarricesne de Seguro Social, said a representative, who avowed that nine out of 10 Costa Ricans have some periodontal problems.

• Expats working here via Internet would seem to be obligated to collect the 14 percent tax on their work unless they were salaried or could show that they are covered by an exportation exemption. This is one of
the big areas of tax evasion among expats. They are now supposed to pay income tax, although many do not, and there is no paper trail the Costa Rican government can follow to verify their income. The proposed law makes an assumption that anyone living here for a time, Costa Rican or foreigner, has some source of income.

Many perpetual tourists, whether they work for a foreign firm via the internet or just for their own accounts frequently evade income taxes. There is nothing in the proposed law that shows the government is aware of the loss of tax money.

• Individuals who earn less than 685,000 colons (about $1,360) a month will not have to pay income tax under the proposal. Those who earn 4 million or more  a month face a 20 percent tax. The tax rate is increased for corporations although there are breaks for registered small and medium firms.

• The positive news is that more than 200 basic products, mostly foods, will be exempted from the tax as will organic agricultural products for the next 10 years.

• Public transportation also is not subject to any sales tax, although indirectly the tax will affect future rate increases.

• Also free of tax will be the exchange of foreign currency to and from colons. And lottery winners will not be taxed. Casino services will be.
Although death and taxes are inevitable, the proposed law will not levy a tax on coffins.

A detailed summary and the text of the law is HERE!

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Our reader's opinion
Demand for meat causes
war against the rainforests

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Jo Stewart wrote a very nice article about trees.  She mentioned; "Trees give us food and drink. They give us shelter and medicine to cure our ailments."
I guess we could take that a step further and say they also give us our consistent climate and clean air we breath.  They are the lungs of the planet.  They help sustain our entire living environment.  Unfortunately, we are cutting down enormous areas of trees, namely rainforests, to raise cattle all over the world.  Maybe when we finally realize the unsustainability of our insatiable appetite for meat, we might start respecting the land of the trees (forests).  

From Guanacaste, Costa Rica, all the way up the Pacific Coast to Mexico, 97 percent of the rainforests have been cut down mainly to raise cattle.  The Caribbean side, as well, has had huge areas of rainforest cut down for the same reason.

Instead of hugging the trees as mentioned in the article, we could be doing millions of trees and our rainforests a favor and ourselves and consume less cow flesh and help alleviate the war against rainforests we humans have launched.
Jo emphasized the incredible fig tree.  There are over 900 species of fig trees, and all of their fruit is edible.   There are about 80 species just in Costa Rica.  They provide thousands of species food and shelter.  Fig trees are only pollinated by wasps and many fig trees are only pollinated by one species of wasp, and that wasp only lives off of that individual species of fig tree.

The ficus Jo mentioned, ficus religiosa is not native to the Americas (New World).  I haven't ever seen that species here in Costa Rica.  I have seen strangler figs here for example, ficus aureus, which resemble ficus religiosa and a couple others.

The old wives tale mentioned by the old Tico about the leaves being medicinal for animals is generally not the case.  it has a latex sap that animals don't care to eat.  The fruits are what are eaten by a myriad of species.

Thanks, Jo, for the uplifting article.
Henry Kantrowitz
interpretive naturalist
Punta Leona

Child sex suspect returns
after decade in Hawaii

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Deputies of the U.S. Marshal's Service have escorted a Costa Rican accused of rape home from Hawaii. The man is Diego Mata Sánchez, 46. He was detained in Honolulu in December.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said the man has been a fugitive since 2001. The crime involves a 3 year old from 1999 to 2001.

U.S. officials were able to return Mata because he was living in Hawaii illegally and was deported. There was no extradition process.

Find out what the papers
said today in Spanish

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here is the section where you can scan short summaries from the Spanish-language press. If you want to know more, just click on a link and you will see and longer summary and have the opportunity to read the entire news story on the page of the Spanish-language newspaper but translated into English.

Translations may be a bit rough, but software is improving every day.

When you see the Summary in English of news stories not covered today by A.M. Costa Rica, you will have a chance to comment.

This is a new service of A.M. Costa Rica called Costa Rica Report. Editor is Daniel Woodall, and you can contact him HERE!
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The many faces of the crucified Christ on display at museum
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A distinctive feature of many Latin churches, particularly in México, is the recumbent figure of Christ that usually can be found somewhere in the rear of the building. These are representations of the crucified Christ and clearly show fatal and non-fatal wounds with plenty of blood.

Christianity marked a major advance in civilization with the substitution of the symbolic human sacrifice for an actual one.

Spanish invaders found real human sacrifices when they encountered the Aztec civilization in the Valley of México. In fact, some of the unluckier conquistadores became sacrifices when Hernando Cortez staged a strategic retreat from Tenochtitlan.

The Mexican statutes are shocking in detail. They represent every possible injury inflicted on Jesus Christ, according to Christian tradition.

The tradition also reached Costa Rica to the extent that many local churches also have life-size statues of the crucified Christ on display. There also are other life-size and larger-than-life statues that usually are carried by the faithful in Semana Santa processions.  Each Good Friday, the funeral procession of the Crucified Christ at the Catedral Metropolitana has as its centerpiece the glass coffin containing a life-size statue. This year  it is April 6.

Now the Museo Nacional has brought the images and other objects together in an exhibition that runs through March 25. The  exhibition is entitled Silencio ante el Sepulcro or “Silence before the Tomb.”

There are 25 pieces of which 16 are life-size, said the museum. They come form churches in San José, Heredia and Cartago.

In addition to statues of Christ, the museum is displaying statues of other liturgical figures, including the Virgen de la Dolorosa, the Virgen de la Soledad, San Juan and angels.

From the iglesia de San Vicente Ferre in Moravia comes a neogothic glass and metal coffin that was made in Germany.
The crucified Christ
Museo Nacional photo
This is a closeup of the statute in the sepulcro that usually is in the San Juan Bautista church in Tibás

The figure of Jesus inside was made in Costa Rica. The museum calls these coffins sepulcros.

From the Iglesia de San Bartolomé in Barva comes a similar object in the Baroque style.

From the Iglesia de San Juan Bautista in Tibás comes a coffin and statue that was donated by a local family in 1918. It was manufactured in Austria, said the museum.

A statue of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad comes not from the San José church of that name but from the Iglesia de San Isidro Labrador in Heredia. This is a representation of the mother of Christ suffering the personal loss after her son's crucifixion. Similar statues at churches here date from the 17th century.

When the exhibit ends, the statues and coffins will be returned to their churches for their role in the Semana Santa processions. The cathedral organizes at least four such processions each year around downtown San José. One commemorates the suffering of Christ at the hands of his captors. There also is a procession Friday morning.

These events attract a lot of camera-wielding tourists, as does the Palm Sunday procession from the La Merced Church to the cathedral. This year it is April 1.

Producers seek more commerical uses for the jocote fruit
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jocote growers soon will have a processing plant to make other uses of the fruit.

The jocote (Spondias purpurea) is a small green fruit that frequently is seen in bags at ferias and in the stalls of street vendors. There is a large seed inside, so the usual way to consume them is by nibbling the outside pulp perhaps with some salt and lime juice. The ripe fruit can be processed further into jams, syrup and other food products.

There are more than 350 jocote producers in León Cortes and Aserrí. But the producers worry about the fluctuations in prices and are seeking other uses for the fruit to safeguard their harvest. Costa Rica produces about 2 million kilos of jocote a year.

The new processing plant is in La Uruca de Aserrí. It is being promoted by the Asociación de Desarrollo Integral de la Uruca de Aserrí and the Asociación de Productores de Jocote. The 45-million-colon plant was financed by the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería and the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social. The dollar amount is $90,000. Inauguration is Friday.
File photo
Ripe jocotes are sweeter than green, but both are great.

With commercial production of various bottled food products, the jocote can be an exported.

Sometimes the pulp is mixed with that of the mango and other tropical fruits to produce a syrup. Local producers see the fruit being used in chileras, ceviche and even wine.

There are about 500 hectares (about 1,240 acres) in jocote trees, said the ministry.

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Nery Brenes led all the way to take home gold for Costa Rica
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Nery Brenes led every step of the journey on his way to Costa Rica’s first medal at a World Indoor Championships,  and a championship record 45.11 seconds.

That took 0.15 off the previous 400-meter record set by Harry ‘Butch’ Reynolds, also the outdoor record holder at the time, in Toronto in 1993.

So a memorable day Saturday all round for the 26-year-old Brenes, who now has his country’s three best performances at a World Indoor Championships. The previous two were fourth-place finishes in the men’s 400 in 2008 and 2010.

The 400 meter contest at a world indoors is a race of attrition. Two rounds on the first day of competition tests everyone’s strength, especially as the semi-final results determine the lane draw and, with it, the favorable outside lanes on the banked track.

Kirani James, Grenada’s first outdoor World champion and the youngest-ever in Olympic and World Championships history, fared worst in this. For losing a gruelling semi-final battle with Brenes, James wound up in lane one, down the hill from his toughest rivals.

James was never in the hunt for the gold medal, unable to get into a good position with a lap to go and having to work hard
Brenes winning
International Association of Athletics Federations photo
Nery Brenes sets a record and gets the gold.

in the second lap to no avail. He finished a tired last in 46.21.

At least Brenes had the good grace to relieve him of the world lead as well (previously, James’s 45.19), thus leaving James with the consolation that his best might not have been good enough in any case.

Brenes can now turn his attention to outdoor championships where his best results are to have reached the semi-finals at the 2007 and 2011 World Championships and the 2008 Olympic Games. He also won the Continental Cup 400 in 2010, so perhaps he can garner further honors for Costa Rica in the Olympic arena.

Dive tourism doesn't affect tiger sharks, new study reports
By the University of Miami news service

Ecotourism activities that use food to attract and concentrate wildlife for viewing have become a controversial topic in ecological studies. The debate is best exemplified by the shark dive tourism industry, a highly lucrative and booming global market. Use of chum or food to attract big sharks to areas where divers can view the dwindling populations of these animals has generated significant criticism because of the potential for ecological and behavioral impacts on the species. However, the debate has been largely rhetorical due to a lack of sufficient data to make any conclusions either way.

Now, five researchers from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have combined efforts to tackle the issue. In a study published in the British Ecological Society’s Functional Ecology, the team conducted the first satellite tagging study to examine the long-term and long-range movement patterns of tiger sharks in response to dive tourism.

“We studied two separate populations of tiger sharks: one that originated in Florida and the other in the Bahamas,” says Neil Hammerschlag, research assistant professor at the Rosenstiel School and one of the five researchers of the study.

At the Bahamas site, nicknamed Tiger Beach, chum is widely used to attract sharks for dive tourism purposes. In contrast, shark feeding for ecotourism in Florida waters is illegal.

The team hypothesized that Tiger Beach sharks would exhibit restricted movements around the dive site, especially when compared to tiger sharks tagged in Florida. However, what they discovered was totally different: Tiger Beach sharks did not exhibit restricted movements near the dive site. Instead, the Bahamas sharks occupied an area over 8,500 square kilometers in size — almost five times greater than Florida tiger sharks.

“Not only did we discover that ecotourism provisioning did not affect tiger shark behavior, we found that tiger sharks

tiger shark
University of Maimi/Jim Abernethy
A large female tiger shark circles a group of divers at a popular Bahamian dive-tourism site nicknamed Tiger Beach.

undergo previously unknown long-distance migrations up to 3,500 kilometers into the open Atlantic,” said Jerald S. Ault, professor of marine biology and fisheries. “These apparent feeding forays follow the Gulf Stream, an area of high biological productivity that concentrates shark prey.”

Added Hammerschlag, “Given the economic and conservation benefits we believe managers should not prevent shark diving tourism out of hand until sufficient data were to demonstrate otherwise.”

The study is titled “Don’t bite the hand that feeds: Assessing ecological impacts of provisioning ecotourism on an apex marine predator.”

Shark finning, the practice of catching a shark, slicing off its fins, and then disposing of the body at sea, is resulting in immense shark population declines worldwide. Fins are sold to support the growing demand for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. In a 2011 study by Gallagher and Hammerschlag, they showed that shark dive tourism generates more money to local economies than does killing the sharks.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Guantanamo detainees
agree to go to Qatar

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Five high-profile Taliban militants held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have agreed to be transferred to the Gulf state of Qatar.

Senior Afghan officials told the media Saturday the five gave their consent to the transfer during a meeting with a visiting Afghan delegation earlier this week.

But the transfer still needs to be approved by the United States, and several U.S. lawmakers with knowledge of the proposal have already voiced strong opposition.

The government of President Hamid Karzai initially also opposed the move, saying that while they backed the prisoners being taken out of Guantanamo, they wanted them transferred back to Afghanistan.  However, Kabul later dropped its opposition "for the sake of peace" and said that once in Qatar, the inmates would be reunited with their families.

The possible deal is meant as an incentive for the Taliban to begin serious peace talks with the Afghan government.

Among the prisoners who may be sent to Qatar is at least one "high-risk" detainee, alleged to be responsible for the killing of thousands of minority Shi'ite Muslims in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban has reportedly begun preliminary talks with U.S. officials in Qatar and has previously announced plans to open a political office there.

The group has repeatedly refused to negotiate with the Afghan government.

U.S. electric car traveling
up a long economic hill

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

U.S. car company General Motors has made some tough business decisions regarding its electric-powered Chevrolet Volt.  Some analysts are wondering what this means for the future of electric cars in America.

Volt owner Frederico Goodsaid can practically sneak up behind people.  He says he likes the "sheer silence" of his electric car.

Goodsaid also enjoys driving by these. "I pass over 50 gas stations as I'm coming to work," he said. "Yes."

The Volt's battery runs for 75 kilometers (45-50 miles).  Then it can switch over to a gasoline-powered generator for another 550 kilometers (340-350 miles).  

Goodsaid recharges his car in a regular outlet at home, or he can check his smartphone for battery charging locations near his office.

Neil Kopit is with a Maryland car dealership.  He says his Volts are not idling on his lot. "My guys are out looking for two truckloads of them right now because I don't have enough to sell to the people who want them," he explained.

That's the kind of excitement President Barack Obama hoped for when he visited a Volt manufacturing plant after the government bailed General Motors out of bankruptcy with billions of dollars in loans. "You're producing the cars of the future," he told automakers.

But Volt didn't hit sales targets for 2011 and saw slow sales in January and February.  So General Motors will temporarily stop production for five weeks.  That has some questioning the future of electric cars in the U.S.

Lacey Plache is with, a car information Web site that gets 14 million hits a month.  "The basic problem is that these vehicles are so much more expensive than their gasoline-powered counterparts," Ms. Plache stated.

Ms. Plache says gasoline would need to double in price ($8-10) before drivers would see a benefit.  But at the same time, she says, automakers are building cars with better fuel economy.  "That provides very strong competition to electric vehicles and plug-ins," she said.

Another issue is the lack of public electrical outlets.  They are not special — just regular plugs.  But without them, drivers worry about taking the car too far from home.  Despite the slowdown in Volt production, other American car makers are not putting on the brakes.

Mark Vaughn writes for Autoweek Magazine. "Within two years, we will have in the United States car market 20 electric vehicles available and as word gets out that they work," he said. "I think this market in the United States will really grow."

Back in his Volt, Goodsaid says a few years is nothing. "When I got my driver's license I was driving my mom's car, which was a 1967 Peugeot, so, times have changed," he noted.
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Tamarindo pioneer Boogaard
dies in Heredia at 77 years

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Koen Boogaard, 77, who has been characterized as a
Mr. Boogaard
Koen Boogaard
Tamarindo pioneer, has died at home in Heredia. He had been battling cancer.

Boogaard moved to Costa Rica from The Netherlands with his wife and daughter in 1979. Planning to retire, he bought a house in the then-quiet little beach town of Tamarindo, according to his family.

Retirement went out the window when he became one of the first people to realize Tamarindo's potential, they said. He sold land
with the promise that if the buyer did not like it he could give it back, no one ever did, the family said.

In later years he became an involved member of the Dutch community in San José and hosted many a tennis tournament. He was the consummate business man and stayed active until just a few weeks before his death, said the family.

A memorial will be held in June in his hometown of Gorinchem.

Bus driver's actions weighted
in probe of Bagaces crash

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Canadian family that was the victim of a highway crash in Bagaces Thursday were hit by a bus traveling behind them.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the bus collided with their vehicle as they were making a turn into their home. That happened not far from the Puente Villa Vieja.

The dead were identified as Howard Moulton, 87, and Jerry Moulton, 24. Based on incorrect information from judicial agents, the older Moulton was incorrectly identified as Howard in a news story posted Friday morning. That was his middle name. The younger Moulton is believed to be a dual-Canadian-Costa Rican citizen.

Investigators said that the bus was heading to Peñas Blancas from San José.

Liquid cocaine suspected

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three men have been detained on suspicion that they were involved in transporting liquid cocaine. 

One was detained in Lourdes de Abangares, Guanacaste, about 3 a.m. Friday. The Judicial Investigating Organization said the man had five containers in his vehicle. A search of a storage facility in Tres Ríos de Cartago later resulted in the arrest of two more men, judicial agents said.

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