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(506) 2223-1327               Published Friday, Nov. 27, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 235       E-mail us
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Christmas plants
Asociación de Seguridad y Embellecimiento de Carreteras Nacionales photo
These are ready for Christmas. The traditional poinsettias await customers at the Asociación de Seguridad y Embellecimiento de Carreteras Nacionales nursery. The non-profit organization is located near Tobias Bolaños airport in Pavas. It reports it has a large
number of plants and decorations for Christmas. The 35-year-old organization raises money for promoting nature and investing in the nation's highways. It works with the  Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, the road and bridge agency.



Income tax reporting rules just got more complex
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Expat business operators are finishing up this weekend their 2008-2009 annual report of sales and purchases, which is due Monday.

But the Dirección General de Tributación, the tax collecting agency, has a surprise for them. This fiscal year they will have to do the same job every three months.

Tributación is tightening up its surveillance of the country's economy so that most significant financial transactions are reported by both sides of the deal.

The report filed Monday will contain most of the major tax deductions business operators and individuals will include in their annual tax return that is due Dec. 15. The report is called the D-151: Declaración anual resumen de clientes, proveedores y gastos especificos. In the two-part form business people must list all sales they have made in the year to a single customer that total more than 2.5 million colons, about $4,500.

They must also list their expenses for purchases or services for more than 2.5 million colons.

Rents, professional fees, commissions and interest are special cases. The form filler must report any transactions to a company or individual that total more than 50,000 during the fiscal year. So visits to a dentist for which the amount paid totals more than 50,000 must be reported.  That's about $90.

Theoretically, the dentist also is filing his form that shows the office received the same payments.

Tributación tries to match up the payments and the expenses and then seeks out taxpayers whose reports do not coincide.

Jorge Granados, an accountant at U.S. Tax and Accounting in Escazú, said Thursday that the situation gets more complex this fiscal year. For one thing, Tributación wants a report every three months of any sales or other income for more than one base salary, which he estimated at 290,000 colons. That's about $522.
The correct forms to use for this fiscal year are designated D-153 and D-154.

Companies and individuals in business must also report any purchases that exceed the one salary base threshold.

But for rents, professional fees, commissions and interest, the individual or business must report any such income received from a Costa Rican source.

This would seem to require reports from many expats who do not now make filings with Tributación. The form also requires full identification of the individuals. 

Basically, Tributación is seeking to keep a running account of most economic activity in the country so the proper amount of income tax can be assessed.

Granados reported that there is one benefit in the new rules for tax filers. Tributación is accepting the D-151 electronically. Filers have three ways to present their forms, he said, listing:

• They can do so in person at the office of Tributación.

• They can file online using special called Declara 4.0.2 that is available at the agency's Web site.

• Or they may use the special software to complete their form and then print out the document manually for presentation in person.

The Declara program can be downloaded from the Tributación Web site or it can be obtained on a set of CDs at an agency office. The program only runs on Windows operating systems.

These new forms must be filed within 20 days after the end of the quarter. The first set of forms will be due by April 20, Granados noted.

There are many more changes in the tax rules for this year, so individual readers should seek out their tax professionals to discuss their individual cases. For example, there are forms to be filed by those in agriculture.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 235

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Our readers' opinions
Some customers at embassy
are not ready for business

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
On Nov. 16, I went to Banco National to deposit 7,000 colons in my friend's bank account. The teller told me I could not do that and that I needed a letter of retirement. So I asked a manager if this was correct, and he told me the same thing, I needed a letter of retirement and offered that I could obtain one at the American Embassy.
 
I went to the American Embassy the next day, Nov 17. A guard at the entrance told me I could go right inside and inquire at the information desk. At the desk I was directed to the passport window. While I was seated waiting for my number to be called, an American was seated next to me occupying two seats, wearing flip flops, cut off jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt. In the space of 15 minutes he drank three cans of Red Bull. He proceeded to tell me that while he was asleep one of the hotel staff came in his room, opened his safe and took his money and his passport, all the while waiving his arms wildly above his head and thrashing his legs around. I'm thinking to myself: "no wonder some of these people have a hard time at the embassy."  Where do we find such men?   He would have been kicked out of McDonalds.
 
Back to me, well turns out I was in the wrong line. I quickly went back to the desk, got a ticket to the Social Security window and in 10 minutes my number was called.  The agent provided me with a letter saying I was on Social Security including the necessary stamp and notary imprint in 10 minutes.  The agent was polite, well trained and went out of his way to be helpful.  He was experiencing printer problems, so he went to another department to print the document.  How is that for service?
LeRoy Bryant
New Jersey

EDITOR'S NOTE: We have no idea why a man has to prove he is on Social Security to depost the equivalent of  $12.61 into another's bank account. But we do know that the citizen services workers at the Social Security window in the U.S. Embassy always have been helpful. Previous writers have been critical of workers who issue visas to Costa Ricans.

Coverage includes issues
found nowhere else here


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Over a year ago I switched to A.M. Costa Rica because I found that not only does it have thorough coverage of day-to-day news, it also covers lots of issues that affect us all. Recent examples are “NOISE” and “LUXURY TAX.”
 
To the “NOISE” issue, I would like to add hawkers with loudspeakers that are heard 100s of meters around starting at 6.30 a.m. on weekends selling eggs, bread, etc in Sabana Oeste/Bello Horizonte area. Also extremely annoying are the low flying small planes that take off from Pavas airport early morning, throughout the week. This was not the case five years ago when I purchased the house. Planes started about three years ago, so they must have changed the routing.

I must say you have made many attempts to clarify the very complex issue of “LUXURY TAX” which has given us good idea of how to tackle it and, if filed electronically, we might just make it. However if three different people: 1.The owner,  2. a real estate agent  3.An inspector were evaluating same property, considering all the complex formulas and different perception, they could all be 10 percent or more off each other. So if there are real estate agents capable of accurate evaluation, they have to be approved by the treasury so the homeowner is not held liable. When I had appraisal of my 3,500-square foot home done in Chicago about five years ago, it cost me $300 for four to five hours of work. It is hard to believe there have been comments made of over $1,000 in your paper.
 
Property values everywhere have come down substantially in last four years, a $250,000.00 home purchased then is difficult to sell for $200,000.00. So Dennis Rogers' comment that a home construction costing $90,000.00 five years ago should be three times that now is out of line and if that is how the Treasury is evaluating construction costs, God help us.
 
All in all I think the Treasury, without giving us enough time and resources, has very unfairly put a gun to our heads and made it a do or die situation. And in cases like mine where I could be on either side with a 35-year-old house, it may be safer just to pay by cutting down expenditure in other areas.
After all it is for a good cause.
Abdul Mohaned
Sabana Oeste. San Jose.
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: The appraisal in Chicago was probably done using comparative market values. Tributación here requires a more complex replacement cost new less depreciation approach. Hence the additional expense. See our luxury tax page for more articles.

Some indirect evidence
is allowed in the U.S.


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Indirect evidence, sadly, could take the form of anonymous witness statements, unsigned or unattributed to their makers.  The practice of prosecuting through indirect evidence allows the prosecutor to present, as fact, statements which cannot be cross examined as there is no right to confront the maker of the statement.  We Americans think of this as a violation of the Sixth Amendment "to be confronted with the witnesses against him" but unfortunately indirect evidence is also used in this country in some places. 

In prison crimes, for instance, the prosecutor, usually an agent of the warden, may use an unsigned affidavit to prosecute the supposed wrongdoer if the warden "believes the statement to be true" or if the informant "has told the truth in the past."  It is very flimsy form of incriminating evidence, which would have less impact if all the other normal due process safeguards are in place, including well prepared defense counsel, impartial Judge or jury, and the right to meaningful attack on the inability of the prosecutor to bring forward the incriminating witness.
Greg Russi
New Castle, Colorado 

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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 235

561-foot hotel-condo tower in the works for Sabana Sur
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

La Sabana Sur is beginning to look like a major city with residential towers dominating the area to the south. But all this construction that has transformed the area in the last six years may get a giant neighbor.

The Spanish firm of Javier Aguado y Asociados has proposed Condal 42 Sabana Park, a 42-story condo project with an included 16-story hotel and an eight-story office center. The project, which is in the planning stages, will be the country's tallest structure if built.

The tower will offer three-, two- and one-bedroom apartments with a fully equipped kitchen. Each 400-square-meter (4,305 square foot) duplex-penthouses has its own suspended garden. In all, there will be 326 units with the smallest 112 square meters (1,205 square feet).

The building will be 171 meters high, some 561 feet, with six levels of underground garages said Fortia Investment, which is marketing the project. There also will be two swimming pools, one for residents and one for hotel guests, said Fortia, which is based in Geneva.

Another project, which already has municipal approval is Torre Sabana. That will be 30 floors, some 140 meters or 459 feet.

Also on the boards is a five building complex of 35-floor towers for La Sabana.

A few years ago, the Sabana Sur area was one of single or two story structures that had begun the conversion to office and store space. There was a sprawling neighborhood bar that overlooked the Autopista Próspero Fernández and the lake in Parque La Sabana.

The tallest structure was the 15-floor tower of the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad in Sabana Norte.


Sabana tower
A rendering of the proposed Condal 42 Sabana Park

Most of that has given way to the construction of residential towers. The west end of the park in Sabana Oeste is dominated by two residential towers, one still under way.

The Sabana Sur bar has become a construction site, and the old road to Escazú, which parallels the autopista, has been under construction and widened.


In defense and support of small Mom and Pop businesses
Recently a piece of news caught my imagination.  I am not sure whether it comes under the heading ironies of life, unexpected consequences, “it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good,” or a lesson to be learned.  Probably all of the above.

It seems, that Somalian fishermen — those who did not become pirates — have rediscovered fish in the waters off Somalia.  They are back in their fishing boats and pulling in catches that are supporting their families. And it seems their pirate brothers are responsible. Due to the threat of piracy, factory fishing ships from other countries that have been sweeping the waters with their nets off Somalia have cut back drastically or simply left the area.  Even the ships that were dumping toxic waste in the waters have diminished. 

As a result, the fish have returned in droves (or schools) at least in large enough numbers that can again support the small fishermen and their families — and as a result of the former scarcity, I guess, the price of fish is very high.  In short, they are making a better living than they did before. 

I have heard this news report only once so I cannot corroborate it, but I had not heard about the commercial fishers or the toxic waste dumpers either.  It’s a toss up as to whether one of the passing governments okayed the fishing and the dumping, or whether larger nations took advantage of this rudderless country.  I have heard and read plenty about the pirates.

However, that is not the point of my mentioning this.  In many waters the fish are disappearing, often the end result of years of over-fishing and wasteful fishing.  Costa Rica is one of them. I don’t recommend that Ticos become pirates, but maybe if the megafishers would give it a rest, the fish might return.  Sort of like letting a piece of land lie fallow for a while to regain its fertility. 

Maybe it is time for small is beautiful to be considered, even in the fishing industry.
 
Small businesses, in most countries represent anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of the employment and are really the backbone of commerce, although it is the big corporations we hear from and about. 

The same is true in Costa Rica, if you add up everyone
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 
from the single street merchant, pulperias, sodas, beauty shops and spas, restaurants and tourist-related workers and small farmers, and small growers, they equal the numbers of all large companies here, except, of course, the government.

A thought has been tickling my mind lately that a small business can concentrate on its mission and the quality of its product or service.  If the intent changes to grow and profit, soon that becomes the most important mission and quality and integrity are lost, as well (i.e. they should stick to catching only the good fish they can sell).

I think the world is at a fork in the road.  Will we continue to value the businesses that become too big too fail, or will more and more Mom and Pop enterprises survive and blossom?

Long overlooked have been the women-headed small businesses. Experience and studies have shown that if a woman is helped to start her own business, the whole family benefits and children get educated.  As a result, small loans have been directed to women.  Costa Rica is rich with women who are entrepreneurs and this weekend it will be celebrating them with the Third National Fair featuring women’s businesses.  It is being held at the Crown Plaza Corobici Hotel in Sabana Norte from tomorrow through Monday.

Entrance is free and it is an opportunity to see what small businesses run by women have accomplished.

As I mentioned before, even in my neighborhood, businesses are appearing.  Most of them are starting small.  The one I didn’t mention last week is the Taller del Chocolate, a glass and stainless steel coffee shop (with brown comfortable looking chairs) just a block and a half from where I live.  It’s a discovery I almost wish I hadn’t made because their chocolate is good and the people are friendly. I hope they are successful just the way they are.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 235


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Officers in Siquirres show the confiscated fireworks they intercepted.

Confiscated fireworks
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo


Police begin to intercept illegal holiday fireworks

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Just 784 vendors have the right to sell fireworks this holiday season, and that does not include a man caught hauling 10,000 units in La Cadena de Sarapiquí Thursday.

Fireworks are regulated, and the basic rule is that if it explodes, it is illegal. Still, many hundreds of thousands of explosive fireworks make it into the country each year, mostly from Nicaragua.

There is a three-to-seven-year jail term possible for anyone who sells illegal fireworks to minors. There is a lesser penalty for transporting them without a license. That is an allegation that the driver of the vehicle in Sarapiquí, identified by the last names of Calderón Rivera, will face,  said the Fuerza Pública. The man lives in Desamparados,
so the fireworks probably were headed to the metro area.
More than 1,200 requests for fireworks sales permits came into the Dirección General de Armamento last year, and the agency issued 1,150.

So far this year the Fuerza Pública has confiscated 26,673 units of fireworks including those found in Sarapiquí, the agency said.  Last year some 106,519 units were confiscated.

The primary concern of police and government officials are children. The Hospital Nacional de Niños each year embarks on a campaign against fireworks because doctors there are the individuals who handle the burned or maimed child.

Still the skies are filled with exploding fireworks for the entire holiday season. Explosive fireworks are sold under the table in many retail outlets.



Reservations being accepted starting today for 3G phones

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telephone company said that it will begin accepting reservations for the third generation cell phones today. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that those who wish to be on a wait list can visit any agency office.

The telecom company also said that persons could call 115
and 193, which are the numbers for customer service.
The company said it would publish later the order in which the numbers will be accepted at the agency offices for those who wish to obtain the much praised 3G service.

The company has maintained wait lists in the past, and plans to put some 250,000 G# lines into service late this year or early in 2010, it has said.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 235

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

Love fest precedes exit
of Iran's chief in Caracas

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ended a visit to Venezuela in which he and his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chávez denounced what they call U.S. imperialism.

The two leaders praised each other Wednesday in Caracas, solidifying their anti-American alliance.  Ahmadinejad compared Iran and Venezuela to brothers-in-arms engaged in trench warfare against imperialism, a reference to the United States.

Chavez also denounced U.S. ally Israel as a "murderous arm of the Yankee empire," in his words.  He rebuked Israel's president for predicting Venezuelans and Iranians will make their leaders disappear.  Chávez said he views Shimon Peres' recent comment as a threat.

The Venezuelan president also said Cuba's ailing former President Fidel Castro had asked him to deliver a hug to Ahmadinejad.  Chávez said he met briefly with Castro in Cuba Tuesday.

Iranian state media say Ahmadinejad left Venezuela later Wednesday for Senegal, the final stop on his five-nation tour.

Earlier Wednesday, the Iranian and Venezuelan presidents attended the signing of several bilateral agreements, including joint projects in energy, housing and farming.

Ahmadinejad's visit drew protests from Venezuela's opposition, which accused Chávez of developing a dangerous alliance with Tehran.  Venezuela's Jewish community denounced Ahmadinejad as an ominous character who could do serious harm to humanity.

The Iranian president has described the Holocaust as a myth and called for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Ahmadinejad's visit to Venezuela was the last leg of a tour of three Latin American nations that support Iran's controversial nuclear program. He also visited Bolivia and Brazil.

Western nations suspect Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons and have demanded that it stop sensitive nuclear work.  Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.


Bri Bri
Part of a poster advertising the class

Native language offered

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The United Nations Children's Fund and the Universidad de Costa Rica plan to offer a course in Bri Bri, one of Costa Rica's native languages.

The object of the course is to strengthen the cultural heritage and to promote the study and use of the language among younger members of the native group.

The course is being offered in conjunction with the Escuela de Filogogia, Lingüistica y Literatura. A meeting to discuss the course will be at 10 a.m. at the university in San Pedro.
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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 235


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Traffic law about to go
to the full legislature


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A special legislative committee set up to study the nation's suspended traffic law has decided to refer changes in fines and sanctions to the full legislature. The committee was at the point of sending the measure to the assembly floor Thursday night.

The committee considered more than 100 motions, most of which will be made again on the assembly floor. No motion was approved that modified a fine, a committee spokesperson said.

The committeee did decide to modify the text so that a vehicle that is being operated without payment of the road tax or without being licensed or without a valid revision tecnica certificate would be taken out of circulation. That is true also for vehicles driven recklessly or with which a drunken operator causes a death.

So, too, will be vehicles found in several situations blocking traffic if the operator has a suspended or expired license.

Drivers also are prohibited from using hand-held cell phones while driving. The exact specifications for minors and their child seats have been left to the regulations that complement the law. However, minors are required to ride in the rear seat if there is one unless a medical condition prevents it, according to the proposed text.

Lawmakers suspended the law as it was about to go into effect so they could take a second look at the fines and other provisions some consider draconian.

 
Artist to exhibit works
at theater group benefit


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The art of Jennifer Lynne Zieman will be on display Sunday as a benefit for the Little Theatre Group.

The Sunday event begins at 4 p.m. in Casa Alfi, the boutique hotel operated by Alfred Richardson on Calle 3 between avenidas 4 and 6. The hotel is opposite the main door of the Colegio Superior de Señoritas.

Ms. Ziemann has been painting since 2003. She is a self-taught artist in the style that critics call “outsider’s art.” She began painting windows that she saved from old houses that were being remodeled with the idea that each piece could be a window into another world. Since then her art has evolved into media using metal, wood and canvas. Her art is surreal with a “folk art” twist to it. Her work is influenced by Frida Kalo, the Mexican artist, she has said.

The Little Theatre Group is a dramatic organization made up of English speakers.




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