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These stories were published Thursday, Nov. 27, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 235
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Abraham Mora knows exactly what he wants to see under the tree.
The hot spot these days is the toy department
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The store may not be Macy’s, but to be a child again one also would want to visit the gigantic toy department at Universal downtown.

Christmas came here three weeks ago, and a steady stream of shoppers patrol the toy department isles. The most wide-eyed are youngsters.

Department manager Roberto López says the season has gotten more competitive and the toys more complex over the last 30 years, so he and the buyers are ever on the lookout for the most popular products.

Toys now come from all over: United States, Hong Kong. Germany, China, Italy, France, Brazil, Spain and others.

Of course the department does a steady business year round, but Christmas is when the store sell thousands and thousands of toys. Although Universal did not release any numbers, a typical toy store will do 70 percent of its business in just the eight weeks before Christmas.

Hot products this year include Barbie, as always, and the Bratz dolls. Plus there are some 

A.M. Costa Rica photos
María José Villar Fernández and sister Nayale are facinated by earthmovers.

meter-high dolls that may even be taller than a lucky girl who gets one.

Remote control vehicles also are big, but it would be incorrect to say these are just for the boys. A visit to the toy department show a lot of interest by children in toys that generally would be regarded for the opposite sex. For example, several sisters showed a lot of interest in miniature construction equipment.

Tax form D-175 represents Catch 22 for filers
By Garland Baker 
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Individuals who own companies face a Catch 22 situation when they decide what they will do with the D-175 tax form.

A Nov.10 article explained how this year’s tax form D-175 is a sting operation of sorts by Tributación Directa, the Costa Rican tax authority. The idea is to catch all those companies not currently on the tax rolls.

The conclusion after several tax seminars, discussions with tax attorneys and a special meeting with a tax guru, is that form D-175 also represents a Catch 22. A Catch 22 is a "damned if you do, damned if you don’t" scenario and comes from Joseph Heller’s World War II novel of the same name. 

There are currently around 308,000 companies listed at the Registro National, the nation’s registry, but only about one-third as many on the tax rolls. That leaves over 200,000 companies as potential taxpayers. Most of these companies only exist to hold property. 

Most owners believe these companies are exempt for some reason from the normal tax process because they are not operating businesses.

However, the fact is no company registered at the Registro is exempt, and all companies need to file tax returns. Costa Rica just has not been on top of its tax collections to insure that all companies are registered with them. It is estimated by the tax experts that Costa Rica only has the resources to police about 3 percent of all the companies inscribed as taxpayers, in other words, about 3,000.

Here lies the Catch 22. If you decide not to file the form D-175, there is a good probability you will not be caught. However, if you are, there is a fine of 76,500 colons or $185 plus interest and penalties. Also during the time you have not filed you will not be able to make any transfers and/or changes to your company at 

the national registry. For some people, this is not a problem since they have not made changes since the original creation of their company and do not care to do so in the future.

If you do file by the Dec. 31 deadline, you will then need to complete the process which means you will need to file forms D-140 Declaration of Inscription and D-110 Misc Payments to pay the Education and Culture Stamp next year. If you do not file these forms, there is a good chance of being caught if they are cross-referenced with the form D-175.

Actually, most people now are caught for some tax infraction because of the cross-referencing of the form D-150-Sales and Payments Reporting Form, and the D-101-Income Tax Form. This process of cross-referencing a master tax database was taught to the Costa Rican government by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

A good rule is to comply with tax authorities at every step. It allows for a better night’s sleep if nothing else. More importantly, most of people making up the international community are guests in Costa Rica, and all law should be respected and obeyed. In addition, Costa Rica is currently re-organizing its tax structure to include a powerful new tax police. 

It is better to get started with the process of legitimizing your tax responsibilities today versus have one of those new officials visit you in the future.

There are also benefits to filing D-140 and becoming fully signed up with Tributación Directa. The most important is being able to obtain totally legalized books from the tax authority which enables a company to be fully up-to-date with the registry process. Many companies over the years have been lost to the unscrupulous because they are not properly registered.

Garland M. Baker is a local businessman who provides business services to the international community. He may be reached at info@crexpertise.com

 
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Thanksgiving Day
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By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day known for football and gigantic turkey dinners.

The day is not a holiday in Costa Rica, although many here are aware of it. The U.S. Embassy will be closed today.

Some U.S.-managed firms or firms that have close daily contact with the United States have closed up for both today and Friday. 

Some members of the Association of Residents of Costa Rica are planning an informal gathering at the Costa Rica Marriott Hotel in Santa Ana today at noon. The Thanksgiving buffet there runs around 10,000 colons, some $24, but Ryan Piercy, association manager, said the price is well worth spending. 

Piercy said that about a dozen persons had signed up and a dozen more had made serious inquiries. Each person is responsible for his or her own bill.

Elsewhere, some restaurants are having special meals, but a number of expats are not trusting their turkey to anyone but themselves. Several have said they were hosting upwards of 40 persons.

The turkey was a stable of pre-Colombian civilizations in the Americas, but the type of bird raised today for the holiday is much plumper and genetically engineers for the table.

Santa Ana home
was trio’s target

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Fuerza Pública officers busted up what appeared to be either a home intrusion or worse in Santa Ana Wednesday.

Officers said they were tipped by an anonymous telephone call that men were about to commit a crime. Two men were detained while police said they were trying to force their way through the porton of a home in the western suburb.

A third man was detained when police found him sitting in a car nearby. Police said the vehicle was stolen in Tibás Nov. 10.

Police did not identify the occupants of the house. However, it appears someone was home because a report said someone managed to sound an intruder alarm seconds before police moved in. The home was described as being 100 meters to the north and 100 meters to the east of the Cevichera El Sol on the old road to Santa Ana.

The three men arrested are identified by their last names and ages: Mora Alfaro, 24, Artavia Granados, 28, and Montero Sánchez, 25. Police said they confiscated two .38 pistols. and three ski masks. Police said the men were from Hatillo and Alajuelita, southern suburbs of San José.

The porton is the metal cage or bars that nearly all Costa Rican homes have at the front door.

Santa Ana, a place where a significant number of expats live, is becoming increasingly a scene of crimes.

Man gunned down
near supreme court

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Someone shot down a man as he walked just three blocks east of the Corte Suprema de Justicia about 6:25 p.m. Tuesday. The shooting took place on Avenida 8 in an area that contains a number of law and association offices.

The man was identified as Marvin Gonzalez Cuadro. Police have little information because the victim was still in Hospital Calderón Guardia in grave condition Wednesday with a bullet wound in the stomach.

The time when the shooting happened is when many workers are leaving the offices and the supreme court building.

Man found dead
at Grecia fire scene

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Grecia man was found dead about 9 p.m. Tuesday when rescue workers and fireman came to his burning home. The Judicial Investigating Organization is trying to determine why the man, José Miranda Campos, 72, died.

The home was in Urbanización Sofía and it was a total loss, said investigators. However, Miranda suffered burns. Two other persons present suffered light burns,. said police.

Monaco’s price to visit

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Prince Albert of Monaco will be visiting Costa Rica next week from Tuesday through Sunday. He is the heir to the principality’s leadership  post, and the visit will be an official state function.

Albert, 45, is the son of Grace Kelly, the actress, and Prince Rainier on Monaco. They married in 1956.

VFW will host visitor

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW), San Jose Post 11207, will have its regular first Tuesday of the month meeting at 2 p.m. in the Bufo Dorado lounge at the Gran Hotel Costa Rica. 

Darryl Dalley, a department Officer visiting from Panama will speak and aid veterans who need assistance regarding VA disability claims and other matters. 

Bob Foster, a Post stalwart, is arriving Monday evening on the Condor flight from Germany and said he would like to see old comrades at the meeting.

A wide selection of food and beverages is available from the menu before, after and during the meeting.  For further information contact Post Commander Manuel Delgado , Adjutant Rick Garcia or  Past Commander Edward Ives.

All interested persons are cordially invited. 

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Money from the U.S. goes to the folks back home
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new study reports that six million Latin American immigrants in the United States are regularly sending money back to their home countries.

The study by the Inter-American Development Bank and the Pew Hispanic Center found that the total amount of money that immigrants send home to their countries of origin (funds known as "remittances") could amount to close to $30 billion in 2003. This figure, the study said, makes Latin America, by far, the "largest single remittance channel in the world."

Results of the study said 18 percent of the adult population in Mexico, 28 percent in El Salvador, 14 percent in Ecuador, and 23 percent of the population in all of Central America are receiving remittances.

Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, said Monday that the remittances "are the expression of profound emotional bonds between those separated by a border. They also represent a new kind of integration among nations, undertaken not by trade negotiators, but by ordinary folk to assuage their economic woes."

The development bank’s Donald Terry said remittances will surpass foreign direct investment as a source of capital for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2003.

"The total aggregate of remittances to Latin America and the Caribbean during this decade is 

conservatively projected to reach more than $450 billion," said Terry, who described such a figure as "staggering."

The study also found that remittance flows were largely unaffected by the U.S. economic downturn of 2001-2002. Except for those in El Salvador, more than half of the recipients in every country in Latin America that the study examined reported that they had started getting money from relatives abroad over the past three years. Another finding said a majority  receiving remittances are women.

In addition, the study found that wire transfer companies such as Western Union and Money Gram remain, by far, the most common means of dispatching remittances, with 70 percent of the senders reporting that they use those firms. Banks are used by 11 percent, while 17 percent of senders use informal means such as the mail or rely on individuals who carry the funds by hand.

On the subject of wire transfer companies, Randal Quarles, the U.S. Treasury Department's assistant secretary for international affairs, said Monday that most remittance channels are expensive to use (charging fees as high as 40 percent of the remittance amount) and often difficult to access.

Quarles, addressing the Latin American Federation of Banks, said that in order to increase the efficiency of remittance services for senders and receivers and to help make these services more affordable and accessible for more people, the Treasury Department has been working with other U.S. government agencies to promote increased competition in the remittance industry.


 
Queen outlines thrust of Blair's legislative plans
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

LONDON, England — Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has formally opened Parliament, outlining the government's legislative program for the coming year. Strengthening relations between Europe and the United States and combating international terrorism are among the government's top foreign policy priorities. 

In time-honored tradition, it was the queen who unveiled to the Parliament the government's legislative agenda for the coming year. Among the main foreign policy concerns of Prime Minister Tony Blair's cabinet is rebuilding the trans-Atlantic relationship that has suffered since the war in Iraq.

"My government will work for a strong partnership between Europe and the United States, underpinned by NATO, and for effective action in tackling the threat from global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction," she said.

The government plans to meet the threat with 

tougher anti-terrorism legislation and measures to strengthen civil defense. 

"The threat from international terrorism and a changing climate have led to a series of emergencies and heightened concerns for the future," continued Queen Elizabeth. "My government will introduce a bill creating a long-term foundation for civil contingencies capable of meeting these challenges. . . . "

Blair's government also reaffirms its long-term commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the Middle East. 

"My government will maintain Britain's commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq, to promoting peace in the Middle East and to tackling the underlying causes of conflict and extremism," she said.

Among the more controversial measures on the domestic agenda is the government's plan to introduce a national identity card and impose tighter controls on asylum seekers in Britain. 


 
Political turmoil in Nicaragua worries some here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Nicaragua is attracting worried eyes from Costa Ricans because the recent good relations with that country might be broken at any moment by a growing political crisis there.

Former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Aleman has been released from the former military prison El Chipote located on a hill overlooking downtown Managua and placed under house arrest, supposedly because of health concerns. 

A judge ordered that Aleman could move to his ranch near Managua, He was arrested in December 2000 and held under house arrest until August, when the same judge ordered him to prison to await trial on money laundering and fraud charges. 

Aleman was president of Nicaragua from 1997 to 2002. His administration was widely viewed as corrupt, and he has been accused of siphoning millions of dollars from government funds.

Aleman returned to his 1,200-acre farm El Chile with a police escort. Hundreds of people lined the streets of the nearby town of Crucero to cheer his release and arrival at his residence. The arrival at his home was viewed as a triumphal return by visiting supporters which included at least one sitting magistrate of the Nicaraguan Supreme Court. 

The court order provided that Aleman could travel freely throughout the entire department of Managua.

A U.S. State Department spokesman in Washington, D.C. , said he country has noted with concern the release in "what appears to be a politically manipulated decision."

Sources in Managua say that the release is the first step in a broad political negotiation between Aleman’s Liberal Constitutional Party and the Sandinista National Liberation Front which could change the structure of Nicaraguan politics. The two parties already have a legislative pact.

Danny Ortega is the leader of the Sandinista party, and it was he who took office in 1979 and led the country against U.S.-supported contras for a decade. Ortega lost the presidential election to Bolaños in November 2001

Bolaños delivered a defiant speech against the two

Photo courtesy of Nicaraguan government
President Bolaños speaks to the nation
 
dominant political parties Wednesday. Calling Aleman’s release a cause for a national day of mourning, Bolaños challenged the nation in his televised speech to note who had caused these events and to support his government. 

Political commentators say that the two major political parties intended to call a constitutional convention to change the Nicaraguan form of government to a parliamentary system controlled by the Liberal Constitutional Party and Sandinistas. 

Former Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodríguez had poor relations with Aleman when he held Nicaragua’s highest office. Current president Abel Pacheco has warm relations with Bolaños. Some issues like the right of passage on the San Juan River between the two countries have been points of friction. Pacheco has even encouraged joint tourism between the two countries.

North Americans based in Nicaragua said that they thought the country would continue to press for inclusion in a Central American free trade treaty with the United States no matter what the local political situation became.

One said that what is in greater doubt is the question of how long the Nicaraguan troops will remain in Iraq if the Sandinistas demand withdrawal as a concession from Aleman. Since Aleman believes that the U.S. government is in part responsible for his incarceration, he would likely accept a parliamentary decree ordering the troops home, said the resident.

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