Trials and Tributation


When it comes to tax I’ve had dealings with the little brown envelopes of Britain’s Inland Revenue – known to its victims as the Inland Revenge – followed by the tricolour productions of the local Hotel des Impots in rural France and now, in Costa Rica, the online taradiddles of the department of Hacienda known as Tributation – which conjures up visions of subject nations paying their dues to heavily bearded Assyrian monarchs, rejoicing in names like Shalmanezer III and Tiglath Pileser the Umpteenth.

My tax affairs here are considerably simpler than they were in either Britain or France….but Tributation is equal to the challenge. While, in my experience, individual taxmen are both pleasant and helpful, those who design tax forms must have been dropped in by alien forces – and when it comes to online forms those alien forces must have originated in the Dungeon Dimensions

Two years ago we had EDDI I. It had a glitch….so you had to go to the central Tributation office to be told how to get round it.
Last year we had EDDI II. It worked perfectly.

Frustrated, the Dungeon Dimensions came back fighting.

You could declare by opening a portal on Hacienda’s website.

Yes, you could open the portal…but apart from inviting you to pay a voluntary tax on your finca – fat chance – there was no provision for declaring your firm’s liability for tax.

Off on the bus to San Jose to Tributation….only to find that since my last visit, they had nattily hidden the entrance to the office down a side road.
You only knew it was there by the presence of a man lopping the top from fresh coconuts to refresh the weary traveler with the water within.
Together with lottery ticket sellers it is an unmistakable indication of the entrance to a government office.

Once inside, I was directed to the kiosk…a bank of computers where staff guided bewildered citizens through the process.

I opened the portal..waited for ten minutes until a member of staff was free…and was told that I could not use it until I had registered our company at the office upstairs.

But it is registered…EDDI II took it with no problems.
Ah. That was EDDI! This is the new portal!

Apparently I had to produce a copy of our company registration, together with an officially stamped paper with the reference number of our electricity supply….

Back on the bus then and into the local electricity board office.

The security man on the door used to work at the bank…so we had a ten minute catch up time…
Then the chap on reception wanted to practice his English.
Then he couldn’t find us on the computer.

Amazing how they can manage to find us for the bill….

Things are, of course, complicated.
We have two meters.

One monitors the supply to our current house – our old holiday house.
It is in the name of the vendor.

We thought about changing it to our own name..but if you change it you have to give up the supply and wait to be reconnected ….yes, the mind boggles and the only reason I can think of is to make work for the staff.
Sucking of teeth of neighbours persuaded us that this was not a good option. You could be, and people have been, lost in the system for months so the meter is still in the name of a lady who lives on the other side of the Central Valley who would need to present herself at the office in order to authorise the issue of the paper.

The other meter services the new house – finally approaching completion.
This is in the name of my husband…..not our company.

One of the kindly ladies found us in the computer…and issued us with what looked like a bus ticket marked with all the details and duly enveloped in sellotape.
In my husband’s name, of course.

On Monday we shall – together – return to Tributation and attempt to pass through the portal.

Potential problems:

A. I opened the portal in my name as I had done the declarations on EDDI.

But –

My name is not on the sellotaped bus ticket.

Still –

My husband’s name is on the company registration certificate:

But –
The said certificate was issued more than thirty days ago – so we might have to belt down to the Registro Nacional and pay for a new one….

And then we might have to open a new portal in his name in order to pay our taxes.

B. Our I.D. on the company certificate is given as a British passport number….while the number on the bus ticket is that of my husband’s local I.D…..
So it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the identity will not be recognised.

In which case, unless we can sort it out before November 30th – effectively during the week to come – we will be unable to make a declaration and thus become liable to a fine of some two million colones.

Now, while I am sure it will all be sorted out – Costa Rican officials being past masters at navigating the shoals of their own bureaucracy – it is the possibility of it not being sorted out which gives rise to sleepless nights.

And all because they made away with EDDI.


56 thoughts on “Trials and Tributation”

    1. A doddle after France! At least here you can beard the officials in their den…..not be told that the office you want is in Lille, the which office does not reply to registered letters…

  1. I am trying to think who they will get to play you in the tV series they are making of your life. George Clooney obviously for Leo but who do you have in mind for yourself?
    This has tyo be a TV series as a film would not be long enough to cover the ground…..

  2. And there I was dreading having to get back on to the IR site to pay my current taxes before the deadline (I always wait until the very last minute because I am so scared of them). At least you can approach humans, here the humans have been done away with completely and all the local tax offices have been closed in the interests of efficiency.

    1. You’re right…it is so much easier to deal with a human being….and how they can think it more efficient to do away with local offices beats me.
      Though, on reflection, it doesn’t. You can’t get at the so and so who cocked it up…and you don’t get coconut water outside either…nothing like it for lowering the blood pressure.

  3. I wouldn’t dream of doing taxes myself anymore. I did for a while in Spain, but it was just too exhausting. I’ve had a look through the French forms and I’m not even going to attempt it here. Everything goes straight to the accountant and he can figure it out.

    1. I’ve left the Spanish taxes with the accountant for the moment, until I get to grips with the system…but given that when I was first in France the accountant cocked up stuff under the double tax treaty with the U.K. which made me take matters into own hands I may well end up doing the same in Spain.

      1. You can somewhat relax regarding Spain. If you get it wrong they automatically presume it was just a mistake and send you a bill. Whether they’re right or wrong, the next thing you have to do is oppose the bill. Again, you don’t need a reason other than you believe they’re mistaken. Nine out of 10 times they don’t bother to pursue the case within the legal time limit šŸ˜‰ Trust me, I’m well versed in such affairs.

          1. I was meaning to ask you abut that. What did you do about the ISF? Our accountant says we should get a valuation of what we’ve got in the house, which I believe is an outrageous intrusion on my privacy. I’ve already paid VAT on any movable assets I own anyway. I’m not going to pay a re-VAT every year.

          2. Yes, indeed they do want an inventory and valuation….even down to the contents of the wine cellar.
            However, works of art are exempt – or at least they were and probably still are because foreign minister Juppe comes from an art dealing family and possesses a considerable collection.
            If I recall correctly they will probably still want an ‘expert’ to certify said works of art as works of art which will cost you an arm and a leg, but only once.
            Sarkozy put in place a ‘buckler’ on the ISF which reduced its potential effect but I think Hollande took it off again.

            All too depends on how you declare yourself…as a couple or as two individuals. I ‘omitted’ to tell the so and sos that we were married.
            Came in very handy.

          3. We’ve been through the list… antiques exempt, modern art and furniture not exempt. I see a ‘property of a gentleman’ catalogue being printed in Britain shortly. I’d rather sell and blow the money than pay a tithe.
            Isn’t it awful that we have to jump through these hoops when those with the actual fortunes just sail through?

          4. Exactly so! They have the art of flaying alive down to a fine art and I very much resent it that the big boys skate through untouched.
            We’ve had to get the money together to buy what we like…we’ve paid tax on that money already and tax on the items bought….
            An old French friend called the Hotel des Impots the Grange aux Dimes after the old French tithe system!

    1. I’d hate to be working and have to find time for all this…you see grannies in line having been sent in by their children, armed with I.D.s, letters of authority from lawyers – you name it…
      The coconuts are young, so the only flesh is a thin skin of jelly on the interior. When we have them from our trees at home I scrape it out as it is delicious – but the man selling them in the street just chucks the lot.
      Quite fun to order one and watch him slice off the top with a machete before inserting a straw.

  4. Indeed, sounds a lot like France, and not just the tax office — banks too, who of course are being scrutinised by the tax office. I’ve just endured 3 interviews at the bank in order to open a new bank account, which I am legally obliged to open due to changes in legislation and which the bank is legally obliged to offer me. I am now at the stage where I can look at the account online, but cannot transfer money in or out of it.

    1. Well, and did you expect to be able to use it!

      Costa Rica’s systems worked pretty well until the last government started importing EU experts to show them how to improve things…since then it is a total shambles.

  5. Turks have it sorted – Everything now is done with one’s identity card number – even buying large items . Woe betide you if you’ve bought something big that your income tax returns suggest you can’t afford.

    1. Oh, I should have gone to Turkey, like my Turkish friends told me to. I am up to my neck in U.S. and French tax hassles. My accountant is surprisingly little help. Clearly, as options, Costa Rica and Spain are out.

      1. From what Mr. Merveilleux says Spain is O.K. – and Costa Rica is quite a good tax option – once you can pass the blasted portal!
        Depends on your accountant’s experience…I found French ones had no clue about anything outside the Hexagon and very little clue about anything inside it.

    2. Cash still rules here – though Hacienda has had the bright idea of running a lottery based in some inexplicable fashion on buying items via your bank card in order to discourage the use of cash.
      Given the discounts for cash I think Hacienda is on a loser.

    1. I’m far from saintly and have no patience whatsoever…but somehow it doesn’t drive me stark staring mad as it used to in France in the latter years.
      Must be the bus rides…

  6. . . having soldiered through this sort of mush in our early days here in Turkey, I have to tell you that I am an an ashamed cultivator of bureaucrats powerful and insignificant. The insignificant are very well aware of the connections upstairs and are delighted to do their job with alacrity. They are then rewarded with a packet of biscuits/cakes by way of appreciation for their integrity and professionalism – no mention is ever made to the ‘big stick’ that circles on the floor above. I am not proud of this but I am determined to survive long enough to enjoy the life I have left!

    1. The worst thing is that when we first moved there was nothing of all this. You collected your tax form – paper and carbon – from your bank, filled it out and returned it. The bank would calculate your liability and that was that.

      Then came the EU experts….and this is the result.

      They prefer chorizo here…

  7. I can’t quite decide if it’s a tragedy or a farce Helen. A bit of both probably! At least the officials sound like they try to assist you by working the system whereas in France they would simply have thrown up their hands with a “nothing to be done” look.

  8. Goodness, what an unbelievable shenanigans! As you say, most of the bureaucracy is probably just a clever job-creation scheme. There are too many people out there who seem determined to make life ever more complicated rather than cutting through all the red tape.

    1. It was all so simple….until they put it online!
      there was a policy of job creation in the public sector for years – building a client base for the party then in power – and now people are waking up to the discrepancy between what it costs and what it does…

  9. Everything official here now they want to see a bill from EDF! Why do these people not wake up and realise that we never get bills any more it is all done by computer!!
    I have not got a copy of the letter any more but a young Zimbabwean wrote to his tax man saying that he did not want to belong to the tax club as from date of his letter, because it had got too expensive – think he has a very good point myself :-)) Hope you are both well Diane

    1. I do like that as an idea! Yes everything online, no local offices (well, we do have one), and then they want paperwork! It worked very well when it was all on paper……Have a lovely weekend.

    1. All sorted,sort of.
      The official explanation of the problem has just been issued (last day for payment) with details of what exactly is required.
      I need only one more document – the one I asked my lawyer for in the first
      place to be told that no one could possibly want that – and I have another fortnight in which to submit the whole caboodle.

      I think a few trouserless taxmen might have enlivened the atmosphere.

  10. Definitely worthy of a Terry Pratchett novel, Helen. I can just imagine Moist getting involved in this labyrinthine situation. I hope that by now you’re seeing your way clear to paying what is due.

    It makes me grateful for the continuing existence of the short form paper tax return in the UK, though for how much longer, I wonder?

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