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(506) 2223-1327              Published Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 253            E-mail us
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Luxury home tax missing many upscale dwellings
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

All is not grim in the luxury tax category. Several professionals who have been doing evaluations for homeowners report that a low percentage of homes actually qualifies for the extra tax.

In one case, a real estate manager hired a professional appraiser who used methods established by the Dirección General de Tributación on seven upscale homes. Only one home, a mansion, qualified for the tax, and the estimated tax will be less than $500 a year, the manager said.

Another expert said that he also evaluated seven homes and that only one of these appears to be subject to the tax.

Tributación published a manual on how to evaluate the tax. The results are only related faintly to the real value of the property.

Tributación also has set up a computer program by which homeowners can evaluate their own property, but the program is specific for Windows machines. Those who have used the program report that the calculations are easy for a Spanish speaker. The file containing the explanation on how to use the calculation program would not open for a reporter Tuesday, suggesting that it has become corrupted.

The tax agency also has backed off on its demand that all homeowners paying the tax permit it to debit a local bank account.

Instead, the agency said that payments of the tax may be made at any Banco de Costa Rica branch using the universal Form D-110 for tax payments.

For those not in Costa Rica, the agency has set up an electronic transfer system with the same bank. Details and the account number can be found HERE! Of course, all the explanations are in Spanish.
 
Previous articles on the luxury home tax are HERE!
 

The tax is designed to pay for homes for the desperately poor. All owners are supposed to register their property with Tributación but only those with homes worth more than 100 million colons are subject to the tax.

Very few homeowners have completed the process so far, in part because Tributación has been delinquent in providing details to the public. The agency pushed forward the due date for the 2009 tax from Dec. 31 to Jan. 15.

Those subject to the tax are supposed to pay a pro rata amount representing the last four months in 2009. In addition they are supposed to pay the 2010 tax by Jan 15.

The experiences of the professional evaluators suggest that many homeowners who expected to have to pay the tax will not.  Today's consolidated dollar exchange rate is 569.58 colons at the Banco Central, and Banco Nacional has set the rate at 573 colons. That makes the 100 million figure worth somewhere between  $175,500 and  $174,500.

There also exists the possibility that there are glitches in the Tribunal manual or the computer program because homes that appear to be subject to the tax are not.

The low percentage of homes qualifying for the tax may endanger the program to provide housing for the poor if little money is raised.

The tax is supposed to expire in 10 years, but lawmakers already are talking about making the levy permanent.


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 253

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Professional Directory
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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Holidays are still stressful
for the police, Cruz Roja


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The holidays may be a time of rest and relaxation for most, but the police and the Cruz Roja have announced ambitious plans to keep citizens safe and healthy.

The Cruz Roja will be fielding 600 workers over the holidays. The security ministry is fielding about the same number of policemen. There are three main events that will keep police and rescue personnel busy. 

The first is the Festejos Populares Zapote Curridabat 2009-2010, which begins Dec. 25 and runs until Jan. 3.  The police will be using multiple perimeters to keep out crooks, those with weapons and presumed drug pushers, the minister said Tuesday. Technicians were at the fairgrounds Tuesday installing surveillance cameras on high poles to keep watch.

The Cruz Roja, if history is any guide, can expect to treat from 650 to 800 persons at the carnival. Some of these will be those who participate in the bull riding and that unique Costa Rican version of bull fighting where a hundred participants get in the ring and try to stay out of the way of a charging bull.
Sometimes people are killed in these displays of heroics and bravery.

Dec. 26 is the Día del Caballista Nacional, otherwise known as the tope nacional or horse parade. The Cruz Roja will have 17 ambulances standing by staffed by 180 aid workers. Most of those participating know about horses, but there also is a strong tradition of drinking beer along the route. The parade is from the statue of León Cortés, up Paseo Colón and Avenida 2 to Plaza Víquez. The hotter the day, the more cans of beer, so sometimes accidents happen.

Although the downtown carnival has past into history, Desamparados has its carnival scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 27. This is developing into a major event, and police will be treating it as such.

Security ministry agencies will be reinforced by some 150 other law officers, mainly Policía de Tránsito, throughout the holidays. Traffic police will have their own priorities, which include nabbing drunk drivers. A weekend traffic death of a child in Atenas and several other alcohol-related fatalities have caused traffic officers to redouble their efforts. They will be staffing checkpoints all over the country, including in the metro area. Fuerza Pública officers also are setting up checkpoints in search of criminal offenders.

Drunk driving has been at the top of the prohibited list since last Christmas when portions of the new traffic law went into effect. Traffic police are confiscating vehicles of alcohol offenders. The driver of the car that killed the boy in Atenas just got three months in preventative detention and a homicide charge.

Our readers' opinions
This brief favors tolerance
in the quest for peace


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Peace can mean different things to different people. To some it can be a feeling or state of tranquility or quiet harmony in personal relations; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions.

Still others may view it as a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom.  Some see it as the opposite of war or freedom from civil disturbance.

If someone asks me what I am looking for in life, my first thought or reply is always “inner peace”. I look at it as something personal. But can anyone find inner peace when much of what we hear and see in the media is all about war and discontent?

This is the real bloodshed over hatred, greed and lust for power. It’s the red of anger I feel that there is no peace anywhere as long as these feelings exist between countries and people.

My friends are Tico, Canadian, French, British, Italian and are of many colors, faiths, ideologies and likes and dislikes. What we have in common is respect for one another.

No one walks around with a chip on their shoulder for very long.  It doesn’t get knocked off.  It gets rubbed off with a big hug.  In order to get along with others, we must find our inner peace through tolerance, understanding, sharing and forgiveness. As a famous singer once said (god rest his soul) “We are the world!”
Joy Streck
Los Arcos
Ellen Moltz
on behalf of the Liga Internacional de
Mujeres Pro Paz
y Libertad-Costa Rica, Heredia Chapter


It's start of slippery slope

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This issue (election code), reported in your column today seems innocent enough, but is it the beginning of a slippery slope.  Any freedom given up temporally is often followed by permanency. I have lived in Costa Rica and still have family there. I love the country and it's people and visit as often as possible, so this is not a message to interfere with your rights to govern as you seem fit. It is a message of concern for your/our future and its free style of democracy. 

Ross Castle
St. Louis, Missouri

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Contacting us

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

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

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Part of the display at the  Hermann and Hanne Schaefer home in Santa Ana where Christmas rules.

Santa Ana home two

This couple in Santa Ana really takes Christmas seriously
By Manuel Avendano Arce
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There is a little bit of the North Pole in Santa Ana.

The location is the Hermann and Hanne Schaefer home, which is filled with lights, decorated trees and other traditional Christmas  displays. These are admired by neighbors and by persons who come from a distance.

The couple's home is filled with lights from door to door. Among the decorations is a small village with miniature houses, snowmen, Santa Claus in his sleigh, a merry-go-round and a small train that travels through the whole scene.

Each day many persons visit this small piece of the North Pole. Children and adults smile to see so much Christmas jammed into one location.

The neighbors do not have to go to Zapote to see the Christmas carnival. The Schaefers have their own miniature fair with steam engines, merry-go-rounds, a ferris wheel, all accompanied by appropriate music and even more lights.
Santa Ana home
Ferris wheel dominates the scene

The home is open to visitors from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. The home is 100 meters north of the Musmanni pastry store in Santa Ana and 300 meters east. Visitors can't miss it due to the seasonable illumination. But if they do, the phone numbers are 2282-6666  and 8860-4711 on the cell.


DelRey Christmas Eve

You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 253

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The old customs house scam still works well at airport

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A good deal can sometimes cloud the mind. And that is what a gang at Juan Santamaría airport lives on.

These are the individuals who promise cut-rate merchandise from the customs warehouse there. But they never deliver.

The Judicial Investigating Organization detained a woman and two men Tuesday on allegations that they are part of such a gang.

According to agents, this criminal operation was well organized. Gang members actually would cold call persons and offer them merchandise appropriate to their trade or business.

The possibilities were endless: Alcohol, computers, tires, wide screen television sets, animal food or household appliances.

The front men would tell the victim that the items were being held by the government customs agents because the owner could not pay the import duty, according to
investigators. The victim was told that he or she could claim the goods merely by paying the duty.

The organized gang has members who pretend to be customs officials, complete with fake identification, agents said. These individuals would flash their fake papers to lend credibility to the swindling pitch. They even would provide supposed government invoices complete with seals and stamps, agents said.

After the victim paid the price with a bank transfer and showed up at the customs warehouse, he or she had a very long wait. The scammers had vanished.

The arrests Tuesday involved a 23-year-old woman and two men, 18 and 28. The raids were in San Rafael de Desamparados and in Pavas. The case being investigated involved the theft of nearly 2 million colons, some $3,500.

Investigators expressed some frustration because this type of scam is an old one, and many times the Judicial Investigating Organization has issued warnings in the news media. Yet victims still fall for the scam. Agents said they expect even more individuals to make reports of similar incidents now that some arrests have been made.



Agents say that English professor knew his murderers

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents made two arrests and took a third man into custody when he surrendered in the murder of an English professor on the Caribbean coast.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that the victim was acquainted with the three men being held for his murder.
Dead is Alexánder Obando Campos, 31, who vanished a week ago. His body was found Friday in a shallow grave near Penshurt on the Caribbean coast.

Obando appears to have been headed south from Limón to give an English class in Talamanca when he was slain. Investigators first found his car and then located the grave nearby. Agents have not revealed a presumed motive, although Obando's laptop and cell phone were taken.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 253

Medical vacations in Costa Rica

U.S. rebounds not as strong
as the earlier estimates


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

New economic data shows the U.S. economy grew more slowly than first thought.  The U.S. Commerce Department reports the nation's gross domestic product expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate from July to September, down from an earlier estimate of 2.8 percent.  Despite the downgrade, other indicators suggest a strong showing in the fourth quarter.  But some economists say an economic turnaround is not a sure thing.

The Commerce Department says the sum of all goods and services produced in the U.S. between July and September was lower than initial estimates because consumers did not spend as much, commercial construction was weaker and companies reduced their inventories.

Even so, the final gross domestic product numbers signal a return to growth after four straight quarters of decline.  Wall Street reacted positively, sending key indexes sharply higher, buoyed in part by a nearly 7.5 percent jump in sales of existing homes.
 
Economist Martin Neil Baily at the Brookings Institution says the latest indicators suggest the economy is on pace to beat third quarter results. "Most forecasters are looking at more than that in the fourth quarter, maybe four percent or a little more than that. So given that the economy is turning around, it sort of looks good," he said.

The downside is that much of the growth in the third quarter was fueled by government stimulus spending.  That includes the "Cash for Clunkers" rebates and the $8,000 tax credit for first time homebuyers.
 
As government programs unwind, so could the recovery. "Some of those forecasters see strong growth in 2010 and 2011.  But I think that's far from a sure thing.  I think it's quite possible that what we're seeing now is a kind of bounce back with inventories and so on and that you may not get a continuation of strong growth in 2010 and 2011," Baily said.

He admits economic forecasting is not a perfect science. He says the worst case scenario would be a period of growth, followed by stagnation and then another recession. "Unemployment is still very high. Consumers have lost a lot of wealth.  They're uncertain about their own employment situation.  If they lose a job, it's very hard to get another job, so there are a lot of scary things out there in the economy," he said.

Despite the warning, analysts say the economy has bounced back faster than expected.

A survey of leading economists predicts the U.S. economy will grow 4 percent between October and December.

The government releases its first estimate of fourth quarter activity Jan. 29.

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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 253


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Brazil's chief justice says
boy must go with dad

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

A Brazilian supreme court justice has ruled that a 9-year-old boy who has been the subject of an international custody dispute must be returned to his American father.

Chief Justice Gilmar Mendes ruled Tuesday in favor of David Goldman, who has been trying to regain custody of his son, Sean, for five years.

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith from Goldman's home state of New Jersey says the development is encouraging although it is not yet known when the boy will return to the United States. The Brazilian relatives of the boy plan to appeal to the full supreme court.

In 2004, David Goldman's wife, Bruna Bianchi, took the child to her native Brazil for what she said was a vacation.  She divorced Goldman while in Brazil and married a prominent lawyer.  She died in childbirth last year, and Sean's stepfather refused to hand him over to his biological father.

Goldman flew to Brazil last week to press his legal appeals for custody.

The case reached the highest levels of the U.S. government during a private meeting at the White House in March between President Barack Obama and his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inacio da Silva.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also lobbied for the boy's return to the United States.

Smith, a Republican, had called for the suspension of Brazil's trade preferences until the international custody battle was resolved.

For your international reading pleasure:

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