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These stories were publishd Monday, Dec. 6, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 241
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'Come back in December,' employee says
Tax collector aggressive but not very helpful
By Garland M. Baker
special to A.M. Costa Rica

This article was very frustrating to write.  Nothing at the Web sites of Tributación Directa or Hacienda worked. Tributación Directa is the name of Costa Rica’s tax authority, and Hacienda is the treasury department.  The search engines on both sites are worthless. 

Trying to find a simple schedule of this month's important tax deadlines was fruitless.  One is directed to the same page repeatedly saying the webmaster is sorry nothing works.  A great help when you want to pay your taxes. 

A personal visit to Tributación Directa was just as disappointing. When trying to request a brochure or even a simple sheet of paper with the tax due dates a woman said: "Come back in December."

All this disorganization may be a result of the Tributación Directa’s move to a gorgeous new building in Barrio Don Bosco close to Jardines de Recuerdo, Costa Rica’s most widely known
funeral parlor.  This is an appropriate place for a tax authority because death and taxes are the only two things that we can be certain of in this lifetime.

Everything worked much better when the tax collectors were in a dumpy old building next to the courts in San José.

However, this does not mean the tax collection process is as disorganized.  On the contrary, Tributación sent out an army of personnel this year to insure the correctness of the data on its computers.  Everyone who is working or has a company is required to be inscribed with the tax authority, and it is mandatory that the data submitted is always correct.  If it is not, one can be fined up to 503,400 colons or $1,120 dollars.

This researcher by accident came across a tax directive, Directriz  N° CP-01-2003 of March 5, 2003, called the Plan de Control Masivo de Omisos Declaraciones Informativas or Massive Plan to Control Tax Information Declarations and Omissions. 

This plan sets out the procedures to track down all those companies and individuals who have not provided Tributación with tax information forms.  These forms, 150, 151, and 154 are the way the tax people are catching cheaters. The forms were due Nov. 30.

These information forms are based on a system of checks and balances taught to Tributación Directa by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Form 150 is where employers report withholding on their employees and it is balanced and compared with what employees file.  Form 151 is where businesses report revenue from other businesses, purchases from suppliers and  professional services and balances with other companies and individuals reporting the same information. 

Form 154 is the form used by credit card issuers to report activity of their affiliates and balances with what those affiliates report as revenue to the tax authority.

If something doesn’t balance in a crosscheck on one of these forms with what is reported for a business or an individual, a visit by the tax police is almost guaranteed, and a fine a certainty.

The good news is if you haven’t done something correctly you can "fess up" and, using words from the tax code, "voluntarily and spontaneously" correct any error or omission.  By doing so, any fine is reduced by 70 percent.

It usually takes the tax computers two months into the New Year to crunch the numbers necessary to do the crosschecking and catch violators. 

This massive plan to catch tax dodgers using tax information forms is Costa Rica’s way to increase tax revenue.  Only about 3 percent of the companies are ever audited because Costa Rica just does not have the tax infrastructure to do more - yet.

Every year the tax authority is becoming stronger and stronger and hiring and training more and more tax police.  If your tax house isn’t in order in Costa Rica, you should get it in order this year to avoid expensive tax problems next year.
 

Garland M. Baker is a 32-year resident of Costa Rica who provides professional services to the international community. He can be reached at info@crexpertise.com. Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica. Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review and can be reached at crlaw@licgarro.com

 

 
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A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Santa in the persona of Gerardo Vargas Ramírez has a chat with an unimressed Diana Prado Garbanzo, held by mother, Madre Ana Garbanzo Ureña. The scene was at the lighting of the towering Christmas tree at the Hospital de Niños where some 1,500 turned out last week.

Foreigners caught working
illegally along Caribbean

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration police cracked down on persons working illegally in three Costa Rican provinces this weekend and reviewed the residency status of 400 persons.

On the Caribbean coast, immigration agents found eight foreigners working illegally in Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Limón center. They were seven Nicaraguans and a Dutch citizen. The eight were taken to San José to begin deportation for violating their tourism visas.

The individuals were employed in bars, restaurants and other nightspots.

In Heredia some 40 foreigners were interviewed, and seven had some form of irregularity with their paperwork, agents said. Three persons appeared to be here illegally, they added.

Meanwhile, in Los Chiles near the Nicaraguan border, agents uncovered what they said was a refuge for illegal immigrants from Nicaragua. They found seven members of a single family in a building near the local hospital. They will be deported, said agents of the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.
 

Colon therapy results 
in raid and investigation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 41-year-old Colombian is under investigation for the illegal practice of medicine. He operates a clinic for hydrocolonic therapy.

The clinic had its own resident publicity director, who used television to promote the clinic, said a spokesman for the Unidad Especializada of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The spokesman identified the operation as Clinica de Terapía Integral in western San José.  Agents conducted a raid to confiscate evidence. Hydrocolonic therapy. involves flushing out the lower intestines.

The complaint was presented by the Colegio de Médicos y Cirujanos, the medical trade group, and the Ministerio de Salud. The man under investigation was identified by the last names Matews Castro.

Fireworks investigations
are going to the dogs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police along the Nicaraguan border are using especially trained dogs to find hidden stashes of fireworks which are illegal here.

The dogs initiated several arrests over the weekend, including one case in which a man is suspected of carrying the fireworks in a suitcase in the trunk of his car. He was identified by the last names of Garcia Garcia. Officials said he lives in Playas del Coco.

Although fireworks are traditional at Christmas, officials have cracked down to avoid injuries to youngsters. A new law provides for three to seven years in prison for transporting fireworks.
 

Brazilian soccer star 
scores then drops dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BANGALORE, India — Brazilian football striker Cristiano de Lima, Jr., died Sunday after he collapsed on the field after colliding with other players in the final of the Indian domestic league's Federation Cup tournament. 

After receiving first aid at the scene, the 25-year-old player was transported to Hosmat Hospital in Bangalore, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The cause of his death was not immediately known.

De Lima scored both goals in Dempo Sports Club's 2-0 win over Mohun Bagan. He scored his second goal in the 78th minute, but he fell to the ground immediately after the collision with other players near the net.

Armed guard kills self

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An armed guard in the Zapote outlet of Cemaco accidentally shot himself fatally in the stomach Sunday. He was identified as Gilberth Jiménez Valverde, 30. The wound was from the man’s 9-mm. pistol.

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Photos courtesy of Sara Chiapponi Madden
Center worker is dwarfed by piles of trash

 
Trash problem out of control, Tortuguero resident says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tortuguero, yet another crown jewel of Costa Rican tourism, finds itself swamped with garbage.

Workers at the town’s recycling center say that plastic bags of garbage are falling into the adjacent water and end up contaminating the ocean and the nesting grounds of the green turtle for which the community is famous.

"Garbage is everywhere," writes Sara Chiapponi Madden, who wrote an impassioned letter to newspapers. She blamed the failure of political institutions to live up to the promises that they made four years ago when the recycling center started.

Photographs she sent show plastic garbage bags piled up higher than the head of a man.

Tortuguero is on a sandy spit with the Caribbean to the east and the Tortuguero Canal to the west. The town is only about a half-mile wide and located in northeastern Costa Rica adjacent to the Parque Nacional Tortuguero. 

There are no roads to the community. Many tourists have enjoyed the boat ride north to Tortuguero. This is the same route that supplies must take. Garbage goes in the opposite direction. The garbage is supposed to go by boat to Pavona and then via truck to a landfill in Guápiles.

But getting the garbage bags to Pavona does not solve the problem. Thanks to support from some local hotels, 

Trash off to landfill by boat . . . maybe

workers managed to ship out several boats full of garbage to the dock, but a promised truck never showed up, said the letter. Now the garbage is leaking and contaminating the canal at that point, too, the letter said.

Because the site is being inundated with garbage and because workers there have been exposed to every kind of pest and insect, the recycling operation is being suspended, according to the letter. Ms. Chiapponi predicts dire consequences for the country and tourism if the problem is not solved.


 
Calendar 
contestants

Some 300 youngsters competed Sunday to have their art work selected as one of 12 to illustrate a calendar for the Organización Internacional para las Migraciones. Winners will be named in a few days.

The event was at the Ministerio de Cultura, Juventud y Deportes and sponsored by the Ministerio de Educación Pública and a private foundation.

A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas

 
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Just when is it the time to send in the clowns?
Viendo el payaso soltando la risa

"When I see the clown, I’ll laugh." In other words: When I see the goods, I’ll let you know what I think. This dicho expresses the notion that we shouldn’t respond until we know all the facts. Don’t believe something that seems too good to be true, because chances are it is.

Clowns are very symbolic. They represent that which is comical, ridiculous, and entertaining, but they also symbolize that which is sad, sinister, complex and potentially evil, id est the thoughts, emotions and personality of the person who is concealed behind all the grease paint and funny clothes. A good clown is a consummate artist. 

Clowns throughout history, right down to our present-day stand-up comedians, have occupied a unique position in society. By disguising it as comedy — sometimes albeit rather thinly — clowns are often permitted to speak the truth when the rest of us cannot or will not do so. Because of this innate ambiguity, it is often difficult to say with absolute certainty who the clown really is. This illusive nature of clowns also lends an ambiguous twist to today’s dicho. 

I was in Italy a few weeks ago. My companion and I thought we had a reservation in Rome for what we believed was a decent hotel. But when we arrived at the reception desk we were told that our reservation had been cancelled because they had been unable to confirm it. This, despite the fact that we had tried repeatedly to reach the hotel by telephone over the preceding days to do just that, but no one had ever answered the phone. 

In any case, the young man behind the desk was very apologetic and told us he could get us a room in another nearby hostelry that was even nicer than the one we would have occupied in his hotel.  Being travel weary, we eagerly took him up on his offer, and he called the other hotel to make the necessary arrangements.  Arriving at the new hotel we were greeted by a rather surly Chinese woman who escorted us to our room. 

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto

Well, if this was the clown, we certainly were not laughing! The room was small, dark, and crowded. But the oddest thing about these accommodations was the bathroom. It had all the necessary fixtures, but the shower consisted of a showerhead suspended by a pipe above the middle of the room. 

So, without benefit of curtain or stall, when one wanted to take a shower all articles including towels, toiletries, shaving kits, and even toilet paper had to be removed from the bathroom to prevent them from getting soaked. 

The following morning we were due for another surprise. Since breakfast was supposedly included, the grumpy Chinese lady gave us vouchers and told us we could collect our breakfast at the quick lunch stand on the corner. There we were provided with one stale croissant and one cup of bad coffee apiece. That was breakfast! 

Well, actually our plight began to seem so ridiculous that we finally did end up laughing about it. After all, we were only in Rome for two nights, and we hadn’t come there for the hotel room. But who, in the end, was the payaso? You can make up your own mind.


 
Summit on banning landmines gets mixed reviews
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NAIROBI, Kenya —  An international conference to ban landmines ended Friday here in the capital city. Some organizers have called the week-long summit a success, others say there is more to be done. 

As the first-ever Nairobi summit for a mine-free world drew to a close, the consensus of event organizers is that more needs to be done to compensate victims of landmines, and to convince the leaders of the world's most powerful nations to sign on to the global anti-landmine treaty.

In one of the conference's most measurable successes, Ethiopia became the 144th nation to ratify the 1997 Ottawa Convention to ban the use, production and stockpiling of landmines. 

Austrian Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, one of the top organizers of the summit, says the international campaign to ban landmines already has had successes. 

"We have now over 37 million stockpiled landmines destroyed," he said. "We need to imagine what it would have meant, if they would have been planted. The financial cost to demine, the human cost, this is just an incredible progress. We need to forcefully continue to do this, and, of course, we need to see that time limits on demining are also met."

Petritsch's figure of more than 37 million stockpiled landmines destroyed so far represents about a fifth of the world's total number of stockpiled landmines, according to officials. Those that are planted kill or maim roughly 8,000 people every year. 

The United States has been a leader in demining efforts around the world, and has promised to stop using landmines by 2010. But it is one of the 46 countries that has yet to ratify the treaty. The United States wanted to sign the treaty, but only if an exception were made to allow continued use of mines to protect American troops in Korea. China and Russia also have not signed on. 

Petritsch echoed the appeal of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki for the leaders of the world's most powerful nations to cease the production and use of landmines.

"Now, in the age of international terrorism, any weapon that one can get rid of altogether is a contribution to overall security," he said, adding: 

"And, of course, the United States as the world leader should appreciate this. So, therefore, I would like to join Kibaki in appealing to the United States. Let's join forces, and let's get rid of one type of weapon, and then let's go on and eliminate others."

The anti-landmine treaty requires its member nations to destroy all mines within four years, and demine their countries within 10 years. Under the treaty, countries are required to help provide long-term care for people maimed by landmines. 

Anti-mine campaigners say compensation for landmine victims has flagged for the past three years. 

The next summit for a mine-free world is scheduled for 2009. By then, Petritsch and others hope, all countries will have banned what he calls the world's most primitive weapon. 


 
McCain ready to outlaw steroid abused by professional U.S. ball players
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  U.S. Sen. John McCain and other leading lawmakers say Major League Baseball must enforce stronger rules against steroid abuse by players. He says baseball should make the changes on its own, but that Congress will require changes by law if necessary. 

The senator plans to introduce legislation next month that requires a drug-testing regimen for players, a bill he believes President George Bush would sign into law. 
However, McCain says he will wait to see what happens at a meeting of the players' union executive board this 

week before taking any action. The board will be looking at the steroid controversy that was fueled last week when media outlets got ahold of grand jury testimony from star sluggers Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi.

The baseball players testified as part of the investigation into the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative, which the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has named as the source of the designer steroid THG and other drugs. McCain says the most important issue is not Barry Bonds or other major league stars, but the high school athletes all over America who believe taking steroids is the only way they can be successful. 


 
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