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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, Nov. 14, 2005, in Vol. 5, No. 225          E-mail us    
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Tax collector's Web site not exactly helpful
By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

December and Christmas in Costa Rica is the prelude to tourism season and better weather, but this also is the time of the year to file certain crucial tax forms.

Everyone knows that life has two certainties: death and taxes.  There is another:  The nation tax authority’s Web site stinks.  It stunk last year, the year before that and the year before that.  This year it is fancier with new graphics, new links, and a new search engine.  They have obviously spent some money on revamping the interface much like the Instituto Costarricence de Turismo with its $880,000 site.  However, it still does not work properly.

Many links go nowhere, and the search engine is a joke.  A search lists orderly results but a click on them ends in this error “The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings.”

It is frustrating enough to have to find which bank is selling tax forms, what bank has what forms, and what bank is not selling forms because they are fighting with the tax authority, referred to as the Dirección General de Tributación also known as Tributacion Directa for short.  Yes, it is true, Banco Nacional, the country’s most important governmental bank will not take money to collect sales taxes for Tributación, and other banks will not accept Banco Nacional checks for tax payments.

At the Web site explanations and details for more complex matters simply are impossible to get. The Web site requires a lengthy registration process to make simple requests, such as to download the ministry's more recent bulletin. Curiously, nowhere on the home page of the ministry do tax deadlines appear.

The absurdity about all of this is the current government wants to approve a new tax law for $500 million in new taxes when it cannot collect the taxes due.  Just blocks from the main Tributación building there are businesses that ask purchasers whether they want to pay sales tax.  It appears in Costa Rica that it is optional to pay sales taxes because many businesses ask customers “Do you want an invoice? If you do, we will have to add sales tax and the purchase will cost you 13 percent more.”

How much money is lost in Costa Rica each day because of this common practice?  Probably much more than the amount lost because many legal professionals do not use real values in property transactions to save on transfer taxes.

Only the Movimiento Libertario, headed by Otto Guevarra, is opposed to the new tax package currently in front of the legislature.  The party argues that every government for the last 30 years has approved a new tax



plan with the promise it will be the last and the one that will solve the country’s problems.  The Libertarian party advocates diligently collecting taxes owed,  promoting ease of payment and removing the current mountain of obstacles that exist.

Here are the most important filings for most readers up to the end of the year:
 
Nov. 30 Form D.151, Sales and Purchases Summary, is due.  This is where businesses list the major payments and purchases they have made during the year.

Dec. 15 is the deadline for the annual income tax form, D.101v2. 

All vehicles need a new marchamo (wheel tax) sticker on their windshields by Dec. 31.

All individuals inscribed with Tributación as working are required to file a personal tax return.  All companies registered as active are required to file.  Companies registered as inactive as those that only exist to hold property do not have to file a return, but it is a good idea to do so.  Form D.101 version 2 is used for individuals and companies alike. The form is due on or before Dec. 15 which falls on a Thursday this year.  A company is any legal entity registered at the Registro Nacional doing business as an S.A., sociedad anónima, or S.R.L, sociedad responsabilidad limitada.

Paying taxes is important for Costa Rica.  Please do so even though it may be very frustrating and hard to do. 
  
 
Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com. Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2005, use without permission prohibited.



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Another storm system
threatens Caribbean coast


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A low pressure system off the Atlantic Coast of Panama has forecasters worried. 

According to the Instituto Meteorológico Nacional the system is intensifying and should generate clouds and rains of variable intensity on the Caribbean coast and the northern zone. The extra rain in an already wetter-than-average season is causing the Reventazón, Chirripó, Barbilla and Colorado rivers to overflow, the emergency commission said.

As a result, the Comisión Nacional de Prevención de Riesgos y Atención de Emergencias has declared a yellow alert for the cantons of Siquirres and Matina and a green alert for the rest of the Atlantic Coast.  A yellow alert means that officials are asking residents to stay alert and take seriously any information or warnings they pass to the public. 

Local emergency committees indicated that the flooding is causing damage in key parts of the infrastructure in some communities.  In Estrada, the rising river has already taken out the bridge that leads to the local cemetery, the commission said. 

The weather institute said that the low pressure system is moving gradually northeast and should have hit Costa Rica late Sunday night or early this morning.  As a result, forecasters predict a wet week for the entire country. 

The busiest Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history does not officially end until Nov. 30 and forecasters say that more storms are possible.     

Costa Rican watermelons
little-known success story


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Costa Rican watermelons, cultivated primarily on the Central Pacific and in Guanacaste have been selling well in European and North American markets, said a report from the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería.

According to a recent report by the Servicio de Información de Mercados del Consejo Nacional de Producción, the countries of Holland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Poland and the United States are some of the nations that import Costa Rican watermelons. 

Even though Tico watermelons only make up 2.1 percent of the total U.S. watermelon market, that portion still accounts for 10.3 million kilos worth approximately  $2.7 million, the ministerio said. 

Holland has become the fruit's primary destination.  Costa Rica shipped more than 14.2 million kilos there. 

In total, Costa Rica has exported more than 37,756 tons of watermelon worth $7,417,051 in the months between January and May of this year, the ministerio said.  That's a 22 percent increase from last year. 

In Costa Rica, the fruit is primarily harvested in Orotina, San Mateo, Bagaces, Cañas, Parrita, San Carlos, Upala and Guápiles, the ministerio said. 

Supermarket stickup leads
to Goicoechea chase


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After a car chase through various sectors of Goicoechea and surrounding areas Saturday, Fuerza Pública officers arrested five suspects minutes after a supermarket robbery, police said.

Police said that four men entered the establishment flashing firearms.  They threatened the owners, cleaned out the cash register and stole a few cases of liquor for the road as well, officers said. The fifth robber waited outside in the getaway car, a white Hyundai Excel with tinted windows, police said. 

The owner of the market called the police with a description of the car and a short while later, the officers found a vehicle matching the description.  The driver led police on a chase through Goicoechea before stopping near the Coyella Fonseca stadium, officers said.  The officers recovered stolen merchandise, they said. 

Arrested were suspects with the names Alvarez Bonilla, Acuña Morales, Matarrita Rivera, Barrantes Vásquez and Cascante Zúñiga,

Man pulls machete
on companion, cops say


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers in Betania de Puerto Carrillo, Hojancha, Guanacaste, arrested a 24-year-old man to face an allegation of hacking at his 22-year-old companion with a machete Sunday, officers said. 

The man, identified by the last names Sánchez López attacked his girlfriend, María Lidieth Díaz Zúñiga on the main street about a kilometer from the school in their town, officers said. The women was taken to the hospital with wounds on her left arm and head, officers said.   Police said that they have no motive in the case.   

OAS will monitor vote
for Venezuelan congress


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The Organization of American States has agreed to oversee Venezuela's Dec. 4 Congressional elections.

Ruben Perina, the OAS mission chief in Venezuela, said election authorities have agreed to give his organization free access to all necessary information and to the technology that will be used for voting.

Several opposition groups had called for outside observers, arguing that the Venezuelan electoral commission is biased in favor of President Hugo Chavez's ruling party. Chavez's party hopes to expand its slim majority in the Congress to two-thirds of the seats. Such an increase would make it easier to pass constitutional reforms.
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A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 14, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 225







Fatal guard dog attack generates mixed reactions
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A news story Friday about a guard dog killing a burglar has generated mixed reactions among readers. Costa Ricans appear divided over the issue, too.

Early Thursday a drug user known to police in a town near Cartago broke into a salvage yard with theft on his mind. But he had the misfortune to run into two rottweiler guard dogs.

Several A.M. Costa Rica readers applauded the actions of the dog, who bit the 25-year-old intruder repeatedly and held on to his bleeding body for more than 90 minutes. Police officers who knew the intruder did not seem anxious to intervene.

A television news segment pictured firemen using a high-pressure hose to drive the dog away from the intruders body. He died of blood loss a short time later in a hospital.

"You guys are savages!  Oh, my GOD how can you possibly live with yourselves if you let dogs eat another human being," said one reader in a hasty note to the newspaper. 

Another said "I have more sympathy for a poisonous snake in my house than a ladrone," using the Spanish work for a crook.

Costa Ricans, who do not support a death penalty even for first-degree murder are uncomfortable with
the death penalty being applied by a dog for burglary.

Several said that police should have shot the dog when they arrived. The salvage yard owner did hit the animal with a stick but to no effect.  Particularly troubling was the televised account that showed the dog walking a short distance from his prey several times.

The dead man was homeless and lived a nomadic lifestyle in the vicinity of Lima de Cartago. Police reported later that he had had a handful of court appearances this year for theft, burglary and robbery.

There was a clear difference between the responses of expats who live here and readers from the United States and Canada. Most expats sided with the dog. Clearly they have been victimized by the petty thefts and other crimes that appear to be on the upswing here.

Those living elsewhere were more compassionate.

Costa Ricans expressed concern about how the dog would behave if the prey were a child instead of a burglar.

Personal liability laws here are not well defined, and the dead man was believed to be an illegal immigrant. So there probably will not be a court case. Police, too, are unlikely to bring a case against a local merchant.
And the owner said he will keep the dog as protection against thieves.


A dictionary of slang provides some interesting words
¡Que bostezo!

"What a yawn!"

This is what most young Costa Ricans say when they consider someone or something to be boring.

Today’s dicho comes from a wonderful dictionary called "Nuevo Diccionario de Costarriqueñismos," Tercera Edición ("New Dictionary of Costaricanisms," 3rd edition) published by the Editorial Tecnológia de Costa Rica, ISBN 9977-66-122-7, for those interested in purchasing it. I was looking through this fascinating tome the other day in search of inspiration, but I got so enthralled that I never made it past the letter “B”. So, I hope you won’t find today’s column too bostezo.

I came across the word botado, which literally means “a throw away” or also sometimes “very cheap.”  But in Costa Rica botado refers to someone who is overly generous with money. For example, we might say: Diego es muy botado porque siempre nos invita a una cerveza, meaning “Diego is too generous because he’s always inviting us to have a beer.” In English we might say that Diego really throws his money around.

Then comes the word botella, which mean “bottle.”

In English we use the word bottleneck to refer to a narrow place, such as a stretch of highway where construction work forces all the traffic into a single lane. In Costa Rica we express this idea by saying: el trafico esta enbotellado.

But, also if you go to the bank and, as usual, the lines look like dragons at a Chinese New Year celebration, you just might also happen to notice one teller who is goofing off, joking with colleagues and customers and generally slowing things down even more. You might say of this slacker that el es una botella, or “he is usless.”

I also found the word bozal, or “muzzle,” in English. This is the device we place over a dog’s snout to keep his mouth shut. In Costa Rica this word has an additional usage in that you can say to someone, ponerse un bozal, or “put a muzzle on it,” meaning “keep your mouth shut.”  But it’s really not considered quite as rude as it may sound.

Brete, in standard Spanish, means “fetters, shackles, or a tight spot.” But Costa Ricans use it to refer to their jobs. We sometimes say in English that “he is fettered to his desk chair,” meaning he’s a slave to his job. This conveys pretty much the same sense as when a Costa Rican refers to his job as his brete.

So now let’s try putting all our new costarriqueñismos together in a couple of sentences and see what we come up with.
The
way we say it

By Daniel So

Ese mae es una botella en el brete, solo es popular porque es un gran botado, sin embargo todos pensamos que es un gran bostezo. Pero, ponete el bozal y no cuentes.

Get it? Let me help you a little. Mae, as we learned in a past column, means “guy” or “man.” So, ese mae, means “that guy.” Solo, of course, means “only.” Popular is easy to get. Porque you should all know as well as gran. Sin embargo is “nevertheless,” and pensamos means “we think.” Ponete might be a new word for some. It is part of poner, meaning “to put” or “to place.” And cuentes is part of contar, meaning “to tell” or “to relate.”

So our purely colloquial Costa Rican sentences comes out meaning something like this:

“That guy is useless at work. He’s only popular because he throws his money around, nevertheless everyone thinks he’s a big bore. But, put a muzzle on it and don’t tell.”

Interesting right?!  This kind of “Ticospeak” will make you very popular at the local cantina, especially if you are one of those gringos botados.

I am reminded of when I first moved to Indiana. I was just learning English back then and many of the locals sounded to me more like they might be speaking Albanian rather than the standard English I was being taught in my classes.

Soon enough, though, I began to pick up the dialect. My brother-in-law, out in California, once remarked in an accusatory tone that I talked just like a damn Hoosier. But far from being an embarrassment to me, I took this a great compliment because I was – and am – proud of where I live and proud of myself for having mastered “Hoosierspeak.”

But I do ramble on, so lest you think me un gran bostezo,  I will have say alli nos vidrios. And to find out what that means, you’ll just have to wait until next week’s column.




IS REAL ESTATE IN COSTA RICA OVERPRICED?
Many of the national publications are claiming that real estate in Costa Rica is grossly overpriced and that the time has come and gone for the land of Pura Vida. True or False?

Well, if you read the classified ads in the English-speaking countries it would seem that a small lot on the beach can run easily in excess of $250,000 and a home in the mountains of trendy Escazú can run well over $500,000. And even a basic home in Heredia can quickly top $300,000.

So . . . has Costa Rican real estate become too expensive?

Can the average "Gringo" still afford to retire here?

The truth? . . . . Take a look at the pictures that are featured here . . . .

Could you retire on a property with views like these?

The properties featured here at CR Home Realty have views like the above . . . and can have a custom home built of top grade quality of between 1,300 and 1,800 sq. ft. . . . and CAN BE PURCHASED FOR BETWEEN $80,000 AND $150,000.  (yes, that includes the land)

. . . minimum lot size almost two acres.


 
. . . private . . . not a gated community . . . in a secure and safe area
. . . within 45 minutes of the country's major airport and an hour of the country's best shopping

. . . within 15 minutes of a larger town with all amenities including a hospital

. . . utilities close by

. . . all homes are custom built and designed to your specifications. . . . these are not "run of the mill" standard design homes. These are custom-built, top-of-the-line homes. You can even get a totally "no risk," financial guarantee with your purchase and design, if you choose.

ALL OF THIS SOUND A LITTLE TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?

Well, we don't blame you for being skeptical. Five years ago we would have said the same thing. BUT . . . . SEEING IS BELIEVING.

CR-HOME REALTY . . . a small firm which over the past two years has gained literally an international reputation and scores of satisfied clients and "believers."

We specialize in helping those seeking to retire in Costa Rica and want to stretch their dollars as far as possible. And we are small enough to offer the best of personalized service and the very best in results.

SEEING IS BELIEVING. CALL OR E-MAIL FOR AN APPOINTMENT.

WE WILL SHOW YOU THAT COSTA RICA IS STILL AFFORDABLE.

CR HOME REALTY WWW.CR-HOME.COM

RANDY@CR-HOME.COM or 011-506-444-1695 or e-mail us for our toll free number.



 
A.M. Costa Rica

Fourth news page

Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Nov. 14, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 225

 



A reader's commentary
Election tribunal shows bias toward traditional parties
Robert Nahrgang S.*
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s fourth official power has shown a biased hand.

That’s right; Costa Rica has four powers of government. Most countries seem to think three separate and independent powers (Executive, Legislative and Judicial) suffice, but the Costa Rican Constitution framers somehow felt it needed a fourth: the Supreme Election Tribunal. and it turns out to be biased.

While the Costa Rican Constitution is clear that “the Government of the Republic” is to be exercised by the “people” and the three above-mentioned powers, it also states that the tribunal is “with the rank and independence of the Powers of the State,” thus another power. Under Article 9 of the Constitution, the Tribunal is given the responsibility “of the acts relative to voting.”

If the U.S. had had such a tribunal, maybe there would not have been so much hullabaloo during the closely contested 2000 presidential race decided in Florida with partially punched voting cards, dubious recount criteria and Supreme Court appeals and resolutions. Well, maybe, but that issue is not germane to this commentary.

This past week the electoral tribunal handed down a ruling that has left many a political scientist and common man wondering about whose side the tribunal is on when it comes to electing public officials: the traditional political parties or the voter? What happened was that one of the non-traditional political parties had petitioned the Tribunal to accept votes cast in blank as valid votes. The Tribunal said no. 

What the tribunal said — in so many words — was that a voter cannot express a non-preference vote on the ballot. Write-in candidates, under any circumstances,
are not eligible to be elected. That, in itself, shows the influence of the political parties. You might argue that if none of candidates are to your liking, don’t even bother to vote.

Not voting and voting in blank are not equivalent forms of political expression. Not going to the polls is choosing not to vote. Going to the polls and voting in blank is voting, and, as such, should form part of the official tally. But in Costa Rica it doesn’t. Bear in mind that reaching political power in a democracy is a numbers game. The closer the contest the more important is each valid vote. Ask loser Al Gore about that.

In Costa Rica, numbers have a particular importance with an election law that permits a presidential candidate to win the election by garnering only 40 percent of the valid vote. Otherwise a runoff election is called for. This is what occurred for the first time in Costa Rica when Abel Pacheco reached the presidential seat in 2002.

Numbers take on more even significance today with the power bases of the traditional parties around 30 percent, but slipping. For traditional parties, that 10 percent or a bit more of the vote is their minimum target. But for an incipient party, that 40 percent is a way out target for an outright win, so to force a runoff means the chances of winning are enhanced.

Because a general disenchantment has taken place among voters with traditional parties, new parties and voter abstention are on the rise. Suffering from shrinking numbers of their support bases, traditional parties have picked up a sizable percentage point gain with the tribunal’s ruling of keeping the total vote as small as possible. In my view, this is a reflection of bias in favor of traditionalism. And that’s not good for a country immersed in traditional problems unsolved by traditional solutions.

* Mr. Nahrgang of Escazú has lived in Costa Rica 40 years.


British parliamentary debate hits on investment here
By Jesse Froehling
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Inter-Parliamentary Union visit to Costa Rica and Nicaragua by members of the United Kingdom Parliament resulted in the first debate of its kind since the British controlled the Nicaraguan Mosquito coast more than 100 years ago.  At issue was whether more United Kingdom investment in the countries would be beneficial.

Member of Parliament Norman Baker of Lewes had been included in the visit and was heavily in favor of the United Kingdom investing more of its foreign resources here and in Nicaragua.  In a gentlemanly exchange in Parliament with the minister for Europe, Douglas Alexander, the two clashed on many issues of investment in the two countries.

Early in his statement, Baker voiced his concern about the stretched resources of Ambassador Georgina Butler who has diplomatic duties not only for Costa Rica but also in Nicaragua now that the British Embassy there has closed. 

“We have now got to the stage at which the engine is running so slowly that it is in danger of stalling.  A little more investment from the UK would repay itself many times over in terms of the benefits to the UK that would flow from it,” Baker said. 

Alexander responded by citing a December 2003 report “UK International Priorities: a Strategy for the Foreign Commonwealth Office.”  In the past seven years, the British Parliament has opened 28 new embassies abroad.  In the same time, the government has closed 26, one of which was in Managua. 

“None of those decisions has been taken lightly, but it is essential that we align our resources to our overall priorities and have the ability to respond to change.  I assure the House and the honorable gentleman that we are not abandoning countries,” Alexander said. 

Baker was also concerned that the United Kingdom Trade and Investment services here had been downgraded to serve only as a response mechanism rather than actively pursuing British investment opportunities here.

“We met business people from UK companies in Costa Rica.  Frankly, some of us were embarrassed by the lack of support that we appear to be giving to those companies, which want to expand, to the benefit of both Costa Rica and Britain,” Baker said.  He voiced this concern in his statement and also during an interruption of Alexander's responses. 
“I, for one, very much regret the cuts that have been made, because I believe they are self-defeating. Does the Minister agree that it would be sensible to have a cost-benefit analysis carried out to discover whether any increase in posts in these countries, and perhaps more widely, might pay for itself in terms of benefit to the British economy?” he asked, speaking of added personnel.

“I assure the honorable gentleman that, as part of the spending review process, careful consideration was given to the relative return, on the basis of the commitment of resource to United Kingdom Trade and Investment, and to a need for UKTI to be a customer-led organization,” Alexander responded.

However, Baker shied away from extending his enthusiasm north to Nicaragua.  He met Daniel Ortega and described “some sort of unusual pact” between the Sandinistas and President Arnoldo Alemán.

“The situation is far from stable at present,” he said.  Baker's largest concern was the lack of infrastructure that causes the Atlantic Coast and particularly the town of Bluefields to be disconnected from Managua and the rest of Nicaragua.  He felt that the British investment in that problem would be beneficial to both countries.  Currently the only access to Bluefields is by boat or plane. 

“It is a pity for Nicaragua that it cannot or has not developed the Atlantic coast. Its geographical position is useful in terms of trade, with openings to the Pacific and the Atlantic. It seems that the Atlantic coast is entirely ignored,” he said.

Alexander responded: “Since taking over responsibility for Nicaragua, the ambassador in San José has paid four visits to the Atlantic coast region and has made a point of raising a number of the concerns with the Nicaraguan authorities in Managua, reinforcing the message of the under-secretary of state for international development,”

In his final remarks, Baker talked about the San Juan River dispute.  At issue is whether or not Costa Rican police may carry firearms on the river. 

“I am concerned that the stability of both countries should not end up compromised by what appears to be a very small dispute, and that valuable resources that ought to be spent on improving the lot of the population at large should not be spent on military matters. If the [British] Government could help in any way — perhaps they can, having been involved historically in the region — that would be very welcome,” he said. 






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