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These stories were published Monday, March 14, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 51
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Annual cultural tax can really bite you
This Easter Bunny has pair of very sharp fangs
By Garland M. Baker 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Everyone with a Costa Rican corporation, limited company or any other type of legally structured entity is required to file a form called D-110 in order to pay their education and culture taxes due March 31 every year.

A corporation, referred to as a sociedad anónima, or S.A., is the most widely used type of company organization in Costa Rica. 

A limited company, referred to as a sociedad de responsabilidad limitada, or S.R.L., is easier to manage and is gaining wide popularity.

Other types of legally structured entities include associations, cooperatives, and limited companies of one person, just to name a few.

Foreign corporations doing business in Costa Rica are also required to pay this tax.

Law 5923 created the education and culture tax in 1976 to fund all types of educational activities, including but not limited to all public education and cultural endeavors including museums.

In 1976 only, all the money collected went to the purchase of radio and television equipment to enable Costa Rica to catch up to the rest of the world.

The net capital of a company determines the amount of tax paid.  Net capital of a company is its assets minus its liabilities.  For example, if a company has 100,000 colons in assets and 90,000 in liabilities, its net capital would be 10,000 colons.

Most people owning companies in Costa Rica do not pay this tax.  They do not know about it or think it does not apply to them.  This tax is for every company operating in Costa Rica and is due by March 31 each year.

Many expats have homes or motor vehicles that actually are owned by a corporation for protection of personal assets and for ease of transfer.

The tax is relatively small but the fine for not paying it is huge and includes geometric interest and nasty penalties. 

There is also a Costa Rican twist to this tax:

The 1976 law, Article 5, mandates tax collectors to scan companies at the national registry to find out all of those required to pay the tax and to cross-reference this information with the tax collection databases.

However, most companies in Costa Rica are not in the tax collection databases because the tax authority, Tributación Directa, does not have the computer storage space necessary to store information on all the companies registered at the Registro Nacional.

Article 7 of the same law requires the tax authority to publish in La Gaceta, the country’s public record newspaper, a list of all companies in arrears each year.  If the delinquency continues, the law also mandates serious tax collection measures to get the tax, including attaching liens to properties held by the companies and selling assets in tax auctions if the levy is not paid.

In simple terms, this means all companies have to pay a tax to a tax agency that does not have enough computer power to make a list of all those owing the tax.

The tax bunny cometh
Education & Culture Tax Table

0 — 250,000 colons in net assets pays 750 colons.

250,001 — 1,000,000 pays 3,000 colons

1,000,001 — 2,000,000 pays 6,000 colons.

2,000,001 and over pays 9,000 colons

The screwed up system creates a vicious circle prone to error.  This means a company could show up on an inaccurate list of taxes owed when none is due or worst.

Companies formed many years ago owe large amounts of money if their officers have not paid the tax.  Someday when Tributación Directa gets its act together and has more funds to upgrade its computer system all these back taxes will have to be paid, including all the interest and penalties. 

Ignorance of the law will not save anyone.

In Costa Rica, one needs to pay all taxes due and keep excellent records regarding all payments made.  Taxpayers should keep originals, not copies, and definitely not scanned copies.  Only original documents with an actual rubber or machine stamped seal are valid to fight against government institutions here.

Next week is Semana Santa, Easter week in Costa Rica, almost every thing closes down, and everyone goes to the beach.  Before packing or chasing the Easter Bunny, wise company executives will pay this educational and cultural tax, if required to do so, on Tributación Directa form D-110 at most banks and keep the receipt in a safe place. 

Right now, in the legislature, there is a bill to increase and add more taxes. The bill proposes little to fix the current inefficient system.  A minority of legislators believe that working to fix the current system would be a better idea.

Garland M. Baker is a 33-year resident of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.    Copyright 2005, use without permission prohibited.

 
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Casio Carvalho of Brazil shows his skill on the surf in Jacó.

Brother and sister share
surfing honors in Jacó

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A brother and sister duo from Jacó both received first place honors at a surfing tournament held in their hometown on the Pacific over the weekend. 

The pair, Luis and Lisbeth Vindas, were the best out of a group of 100 surfers that competed at the "Grand Prix Mangoa." 

The event was the fifth leg of the 2004-2005 Circuito Nacional de Surf. As an official event of the national circuit, the competition gives both Luis and Lisbeth points towards their national rankings.

These rankings will be used to determine who represents Costa Rica at the World Junior Surfing Championships scheduled for October 2005 in Huntington Beach. 

The first four events of the circuit were held in Esterillos, Negra, Tamarindo and Dominical. 

First shots of country
to be shown by NASA

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Preliminary results from the NASA aircraft mission to photograph Costa Rica will be viewed by President Abel Pacheco Thursday.

The preliminary results from Misión CARTA 2005 will be unveiled at a meeting in Hangar Nacional de Investigaciones Aerotransportadas at Juan Santamaría Airport in Alajuela.

The project was sponsored locally by the Programa de Regularización del Catastro y Registro. Officials from the group say that research from the project should help them protect Costa Rica’s population from natural disasters. 

The mission was designed to generate digital and multi-spectral photographs of Costa Rica that can be used to study Earth measurements and volcanic activity. These tools can help country officials to lessen the impact of natural disasters. 

The project also will allow officials to map individual properties through the country for purposes of ownership and taxation.

The aircraft and crews for the U.S. National Aeronautic and Space Administration are based at the airport.

Fairs and events fill
the Easter calendar

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Over the next two weeks, Costa Rica will celebrate the coming of the Easter holiday with a variety of cultural fairs, festivals, and concerts.

The festivals actually began over a week ago in Limón, with a traditional art and culture festival that will run through March 20. The fair features traditional Caribbean cuisine and entertainment.

The Caribbean coast will also host two dance recitals at the Playa Chiquita Lodge in Puerto Viejo. Friday Grupo Metamorfosis will perform its "organic" dance routine. The following night, Saturday, the group will return to perform several other dance routines. All of the shows begin at 7 p.m.

Another festival began Sunday at the Costa Rican Cultural Center at Avenida 3 and Calle 15. The festival will run through next Saturday, featuring traditional music and dancing as well as works created by local artists.

The Symphonic Orchestra from Iowa has traveled to Costa Rica for a show today at the Templo Parroquial in San Ramón. The concert will begin at 6 p.m. Following the orchestra, a trumpet quartet from the Universidad de Costa Rica will perform. 

Today is also the start date for a cultural festival in Puntarenas. The festival will feature films, dances, and local art, presented at the Plaza de Artesanía.

The National Symphonic Orchestra will play two concerts in preparation for the holiday. The first, on Friday will be at 8 p.m. The second, March 20 will be at 10:30 a.m. Both concerts will be at the National Theatre.

The National Bands will also hold specialized concerts over the next two weeks for the holiday. The National Band of Alajuela will play Sunday at 10 a.m. and Friday at 8 p.m. at Parque Tomás Guardia. The National Band of Guanacaste will play Sunday and Friday at 7 p.m. at Parque de Liberia. 

The National Band of Limón will play Friday at 3 p.m. at the Boulevard. The National Band of Puntarenas will play Sundays at 10 a.m. and Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the Plaza de las Artesanías. The National Band of San José will play Sundays at 10 a.m. and Thursdays at noon in Parque Central. 

The National Band of Heredia will play Sundays at 10 a.m. and Thursdays at 7 p.m. at Parque Central. The National Band of Cartago will play Sundays at 10 a.m. and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. at Plaza Mayor.

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RACSA e-mail messages are being blocked as spam
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

E-mail messages from Costa Rica are being blocked elsewhere because the Internet service provider Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. has been blacklisted.

The blocks mean that Internet professionals elsewhere believe that the Costa Rican provider, known as RACSA, is hosting customers who e-mail unrequested commercial messages known as spam.

This weekend e-mail messages from Costa Rica to the United States did not go through, and a message from the RACSA sever said

"Diagnostic code: smtp;550 found in in.dnsbl.org"

According to its Web site, the primary purpose of the DNS-bl is for DNS providers to collectively deny DNS services to known spam domains. DNS numbers are the digital addresses computers use to locate e-mail recipients and Web pages.

The organization reports that the domain racsa.co.cr has been banned for spamming easyDNS corporate mail hubs. EasyDNS is a company that provides and manages DNS numbers.

EasyDNS subscribes to a number of spam blacklisting services, and presumably has barred racsa.co.cr and passed that information on to dnsbl.org. Said EasyDNS on its Web site:

"If your mail server is being rejected by our mail servers we are probably the least of your problems. If we are rejecting your e-mail then a lot of other places are too. 

"Your problem will not fix itself and will not go away or lessen over time. It will get worse and fewer and fewer networks will accept your mail. There are ways to get unblocked . . . .  your first priority should be to secure your mailserver against open relays, bring your DNS into compliance and get rid of any spammers you may be providing services to. "

The U.S. Federal Communication Commission says that open relays and open proxies are servers that allow any computer in the world to bounce or route e-mail through servers of other organizations, thereby disguising the real origin of the e-mail. Spammers use this technique.

How to reach us

If you are in Costa Rica and trying to reach A.M. Costa Rica, your e-mail probably will bounce.

The amcostarica.com domain is hosted in the United States, and the hosting company is among those firms blocking messages from Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. as suspected spam.

Messages from other Internet domains are handled normally.

Until the current situation with e-mail blocking is straightened out, e-mail users with RACSA accounts should mail messages to us at:

brodellj@racsa.co.cr

The Spamhaus Project is one of those international 
organizations that keep track of spam e-mails and maintains a blacklist.

Spamhaus said that it has been keeping track of spam from Costa Rica generated by Internet a su Alcance and other spam sources here. Spamhaus also lists what it calls other racsa.co.cr spam problems.

Internet a su Alcance describes itself on its Web site as a bulk e-mailer but tries to differentiate what it does from spam. The firm’s contacts are in San José, according to a lookup of the domain’s registry. The firm lists Omni Life and Corporación Miravalles as some of its bulk e-mail customers

RACSA periodically has spam problems. Because it is the official government monopoly, most e-mails from Costa Rica go through its servers and therefore would be rejected elsewhere.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, RASCA’s corporate parent, markets a fast Internet service that uses telephone lines available all over the country. However, it, too, has been experiencing problems with e-mail during the last three weeks. 

Spamhaus does not have any current listings of spam coming from the company known as ICE.


 
Australian newspapers critical of policemen in search
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After 10 days of searching without results for an Australian student missing in Tamarindo the Fuerza Pública has come under scathing criticism by several Australian news organizations. 

The case is supposed to be handed over to the Judicial Investigating Organization today. According to officials at the organization, the student, Brendan Dobbins was reported missing by several of his classmates March 4 after Dobbins failed to meet up with them in San José for their flight home.

Dobbins, 24 and a senior at the University of Florida, traveled to Costa Rica with several of his classmates over spring break.

Several Australian newspapers have published stories about Dobbins’ disappearance and have been critical of the Fuerza Publica’s investigation. Articles published by the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Sydney Daily Telegraph, claimed that the investigation has been hampered by bureaucratic inaction and that the case should have been handed over to the Judicial Investigating Organization sooner.

The Telegraph article claims that the Fuerza Pública’s Tamarindo office lacks computer support, does not have a fax machine, and is underfunded. The articles said that officials from the organization were slow to act and said the arrival of a K-9 squad to search for Dobbins’ body Saturday, took place long after his scent would have disappeared. 

The articles also said the police asked Australians looking for Dobbins to provide food for the officers working the case. The policemen did not leave the station until a caterer had been asked to make 20 meals, the newspaper said.

Brian Dobbins, Brendan’s father, traveled from Melbourne, Australia, over the weekend to help search for his son. According to the Cruz Roja, the elder Dobbins visited several local churches and asked the congregations to help look for his son. Imogen Wells, a friend of the younger Dobbins’ who traveled with him 

to Florida and to Costa Rica, said that she and several of her classmates had stuck around for an extra week to search for their missing friend. Over the phone from her hotel in Tamarindo, Miss Wells said Sunday that she and her friends would have to return to classes soon, however.

"They used sniff dogs to search for Brendan. Then they used a boat search and finally helicopters," she said. 
Brendan Dobbins
"The investigators said that if he had drown, his body would have floated to shore by now." Miss Wells declined to comment about the Fuerza Pública’s effectiveness in the case. 

The articles in the Autralian newspapers all seem to have been written by a man identified as Adam Harvey. The stories said that he was reporting from Tamarindo.

Miss Wells said that Brendan’s father would most likely be in town for a while longer.

"Right now he doesn’t have any immediate plans to go back," she said. "He is just taking it a day at a time." The father declined to be interviewed but he did release a short statement.

Dobbins was last seen by a local DJ walking along the beach at 7 a.m. March 4, with a local female acquaintance. The girl was originally thought to be missing too, but she was located in a suburb near Tamarindo a few days ago, officials said. 

Investigators questioned the girl and have not included her as a suspect in the investigation, according to Miss Wells. The girl said she left Dobbins on the beach.

Chris Munn, consular general of the Australian Embassy in Mexico, traveled to Tamarindo over the weekend. After working with local authorities, Munn headed to San José Sunday to speak with officials at the Canadian Embassy, which handles Australian consular duties in Costa Rica.


 
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Just a blur

Dancers who are members of the hip hop dance group Gospel Breakers show off their moves at a fair in the Centro de Cultura Sunday.

A.M. Costa Rica/Joe Medici

 
Condo robbery trial beginning this week for six men
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Six men suspected of being part of a gang who worked together to rob persons who live in luxury condominiums in Escazú and the western suburbs will face trial starting today.

Investigators arrested the six men in March and April 2004. They are suspected of being the group that targeted upscale apartment and condo complexes.

The court identified the six men that comprised the group by their last names, Madrigal, Loría, Villegas, Palma, and two men with the last name Campos.

A statement released by the court said that the bandits who robbed the apartments befriended the guards and used luxury rental cars to move into the apartment complexes unnoticed.

Frequently they would tie up the people found in the apartments.

Officials caught up with the suspects during two raids held March 31. One of the raids was held in San Sebastian on San José’s south side. The other was in Barrio Pinto, Montes de Oca.  All of the men facing trial are charged with aggravated robbery. Some 33 witnesses have been scheduled.


 
Chavez and Iranian president in Caracas take shots at the United States 
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami took turns attacking the United States Friday during a state visit by the Iranian leader.

In a speech to Venezuela's National Assembly, Chavez declared that Iran has every right to develop atomic energy, and promised to oppose any U.S. efforts to stop 

Iran. Washington accuses Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons.

In Khatami's speech to the lawmakers, he denounced terrorism while condemning what he called "crimes of liberty," specifically citing the U.S. Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq and ongoing detentions at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo, Cuba. On other issues, the presidents of two oil-producing countries signed a number of cooperation agreements.


 
 
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