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.


Paris is Rather a Mess

palace elysee guides.restaurants.frThus the Sellar and Yeatman version of the end of the sixteenth century Wars of Religion in France where the Protestant victor, Henry of Navarre, turned Roman Catholic (again) in order that his victory should gain acceptance.
Paris, he is reported to have said, is worth a mass.

Given current conditions…the Sellar and Yeatman version seems distinctly appropriate.

Eighteen months into his five year stint as President of the French Republic, Francois Hollande is not a happy bunny.
Things are not going according to plan.

Hollande is a graduate of the ENA – where the elite of France are formed to be worthy leaders of their country’s institutions.
Where to succeed you need to know that not only is there only one answer to a question…but also only one question to be asked.

Accordingly Hollande knew the one question to be asked….how to be elected in 2012?
He also knew the answer….be anyone except the retiring President, Nicolas Sarkozy.
Nowhere in this process will you find matters such as how to conduct the governance of France.
All ENA graduates know the answer to that one….carry on as before with all the posts of power, private and public, in the steady hands of themselves or other graduates of the ENA.

The ENA would have been gratified at the success of his plan.
He was elected President of the French Republic and set about proving he was not Sarkozy by getting shafted by the German Chancellor at their first meeting and wandering round in baggy bermudas on his hols in the south of France.

Then he got the bit between his teeth.
Sarkozy had given a tax exoneration for overtime worked. Hollande removed it.
Sarkozy had overseen the setting up of the auto-entrepreneur scheme, whereby people setting up in business paid social charges only on what they earned after they had earned it…not on what a bureaucrat thought they would earn and so charged them upfront before they started. Hollande wanted to overturn it….but met opposition, especially from those who found that if they sold the business they had founded they would have to pay a 60% tax on the proceeds.

The grand plan began to run off the rails….

Even the EU had noticed France’s budget deficit and urgent measures had to be taken to reduce it. The people had to be prepared to make sacrifices.
Well, some people.
Not politicians for a start.
Nor top civil servants.
Nor big business.
Nor the state.

No, the little man could stump up.

To have the least malcontents, keeping hitting the same people all the time
To have the least malcontents, keeping hitting the same people all the time
The ENA teaches its students to operate on the Shadok system…..

If there is no solution it is because there is no problem (the only one question principle)….

If there is only one chance in a thousand of success, hurry up and make the first nine hundred and ninety nine cock ups.

This was an unfortunate moment for the budget minister to be found to have had secret Swiss bank accounts.

Then foreign manufacturing companies started to pull out of France….jobs have been lost.
Taxation is hitting hard.
And the one Sarkozyism that Hollande did not boot out – the ecotax on heavy goods vehicles – has provoked riots in Brittany and vandalism to installations elsewhere.

But the ENA has the answer…the only one…..the traditional one.
So billions to Brittany, billions to road transport groups, and probably billions to buy off the Italian firm who were going to run the ecotax

Buit who is going to pay the bribes….yes, the little man through increased taxation.

And the deficit? …Oh; that….

Paris is rather a mess.

Normally when disatified with one main stream political party people turn to the other…but the UMP has its own scandals and infighting to occupy it….so no leadership there.

The journalists (given a whopping tax break by Hollande after Sarkozy had previously removed it) worry about people looking to a strong man…they see the rise of totalitarianism in France….they fear the Front National coming to power.

So today, on the anniversary of the death of General de Gaulle, his tomb has been visited by a range of politicians on the make, anxious to wrap themselves in the mantle of the last strong man to rule France.

They could all be put into one of the pockets of his greatcoat and pass unnoticed.

One, however, has not made the journey.

Moi-je, Francois Hollandouille, President of the French Republic.

Perhaps he worries that, should he pay a visit, the speed at which the General would be revolving in his grave would be sufficient to achieve lift off….and that the resulting encounter would be a re-run of the finale of Don Giovanni….

Hollande going up in flames.


Chinchilla Goes A-Hunting

Chinchilla-Comunicacion-CORTESIA-CASA-PRESIDENCIAL_LNCIMA20131104_0006_57Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, is on a tour of Europe to attend a meeting of the OECD and drum up investment and tourism for her country.
I’m never happy when Costa Rican politicians visit Europe….they inevitably return starry eyed with new ideas on how to separate the citizen from the said citizen’s money following the example of those masters of financial meltdown, the European Union.
Last time it was VAT…what will it be this time?
The ecotax on heavy goods vehicles currently going down with all hands in Brittany?

Paris was the first stop….
Usual meetings with the President of the Senate….and even with the reclusive Hollandouille, President of the French Republic where the usual platitudes as to investment were exchanged – the French want to flog a tramway to San Jose – and the possibility of opening Costa Rican waters to ships of the French fleet was discussed.

The Costa Rican Legislative Assembly need have no fear of approving this measure as every time the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle attempts to leave port either the propellor falls off or they run out of nibbles in the wardroom so there’s not much chance of pom-pom hatted matelots performing the cancan in the streets of Limon any time soon.

President Chinchilla then went to the real seat of power…the offices of MEDEF, the bosses union, to have more meaningful discussions on inward investment in Costa Rica.
While not privy to the session I imagine that MEDEF would have been interested to know to how the facilitation of the social dialogue works in Costa Rica: as we are now belatedly discovering, in France it works by shovelling bank notes to the tune of several million Euros into the hands of union leaders on a regular basis.
I am sure that President Chinchilla was able to tell them how the social dialogue is facilitated in Costa Rica.

Before moving on to the Vatican, President Chinchilla wound up her visit by giving a speech at the UNESCO offices in Paris where she drew attention to Costa Rica’s strongdemocratic traditions in a region more noted for the despoliation of the people by oligarchal regimes…and to Costa Rica’s respect for the environment…for the natural world.

notre dame de paris wikipedia.commons.orgFrom that point of view it was perhaps infelicitous that on the Sunday the President had attended a mass at Notre Dame de Paris…in the company of government colleagues travelling with her and embassy staff.

She’s a Roman Catholic…so why not? She was welcomed by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, and she heard mass.
Where’s the problem?

In the light of her declarations at UNESCO the problem was that the mass in question was that of St.Hubert.
The patron saint of the hunting fraternity.

If you are not familiar with them, the music of the ‘trompes de chasse’ is based on the calls necessary to direct the mounted hunt…la chasse a courre…. and all over France, in towns as well as in the countryside, you will find the feast day of St. Hubert celebrated by groups of players of trompes de chasse outside and inside churches…from tiny chapels in the forests to the mighty Notre Dame of Paris itself.

Let me leave you with an example of the music that President of Costa Rica may have heard:

Victor…A Word…

john-piper-mosnac-dordogne.jpgOn a wet afternoon in western France a gendarmerie van pulls into the farmyard…its sole occupant gets out shouting

Hoy, Victor! A word!

Hello Jean-Yves! What brings you here? I’m in the barn…just a minute while I shut the doors and we’ll have a drink…

No, don’t shut the doors, Victor….it’s about what you’ve got in that barn that I’ve come about.

On your own, I see.

Yes, I’m trying to do you a good turn….let me see what you’ve got there. Yes, just as I thought!
Victor, you’ll have to get rid of it…put it back where you found it…and quickly.
There’s all hell to pay.
Everyone’s out looking for it and they’ve even taken us off speed traps and breathalysers.

Must be serious then!

Yes, it is!
Apart from you having stolen property in your barn…what the blazes do you want with a bulldozer that size? You haven’t got enough land to make it worthwhile – and how did you get it here from the new bypass anyway?

Ah! Typical!
Us farmers are getting robbed all ways…..diesel syphoned off, animals killed in our own fields, tools stolen, irrigation pipes nicked – even whole crops gone!
Look at that poor guy who had his whole field of garlic nicked….and the forty hectares of grapes that went missing overnight….not to speak of combine harvesters vanishing into thin air!
And where are the Gendarmerie? Breathalysing some poor sod who’s been out drowning his sorrows!

Well it’s not my fault….only a few more years to the pension, thank goodness.
It’s not what I joined for I can tell you…

No, I know Jean-Yves.
When you started there were still bars in your stations – and you were a hell of a lot nicer for it! I reckon that the rot started when they closed down them down.
You turned nasty about then…applying the law to people you knew…
Still, what I mean is that us farmers can have our stuff nicked left, right and centre…but let some big roadworks contractor miss his bulldozer – you’d think he’d got enough, wouldn’t you? – you’re all on red alert!
No wonder we’ll all be voting Le Pen in the elections!

That’s as maybe…but I can tell you that a big firm like Crapule gets a lot more attention in high places than you lot. Might be different if you were cereal boys…in the big league…but you’re not!
The firm thought the ‘dozer had been whipped off to Germany….like a lot of other stuff. You boys are lucky you’re not nearer the frontier.

Clever buggers, the Germans.

What do you mean?

Well, they worked out they didn’t have to have a war to get what they wanted this time….they thought up the E.U.
See, in the war they had to go round requisitioning…this way government – our government – does it for them.
They get cheap veg and flog expensive cars.
Bit like Vichy, really, but more efficient. Very hot on efficiency the Germans…

Come off it Victor! You’re not telling me the Germans are using the E.U. to nick combine harvesters and fields of garlic…

No, but they run the show, don’t they! Remember when Hollande got in and what he was going to say to Merkel?
Turned out to be ‘Jawohl’, didn’t it…
No, the E.U. lets these crooks from Transylvania in and they nick the stuff, take it to Germany and the Germans get it on the cheap…
Clever buggers, like I said.

Never mind all that! You’ll have to get it back there…or dump it somewhere…and sharpish!

Well, we’ve finished with it now anyway, so I’ll get Laurent to run it into Ste. Conasse tonight, dump it round the back where it’s dark. Just make sure you’re not out breathalysing between here and there.

No, all right…but who is ‘we’? You and Laurent?

No! There’s me, of course, and Jean-Antoine and Popaul…here, you’re not taking notes!

No, just interested to know what’s going on. That’s what policing used to be about…
So what the blazes were you three geriatrics up to? Put together you don’t have enough land to make that ‘dozer worthwhile…

That’s where you’re wrong!
It’s the eco tax…you know, the one on lorries that comes in in January. Going to be taxed by the lorry…tollgates going up all over the main roads…
Gerard over at the roads department in Benitierville put us wise! There’s going to be one between us and the abattoir! It’s only down the road…but we’ll have to pay as if we’d been coming from Normandy!

Well you weren’t thinking of using the ‘dozer to knock the tollgate down, were you?

No! We might be old but we’re not stupid!
We had a word with Olivier down at the abattoir and he reckons that we can get in on the back road from St. Ragondin round by les Deux Biscouilles without any problem.

But how are you going to get to St. Ragondin? You’ve still got the main road to deal with.

Ah. that’s why we wanted the bulldozer.
We’ve made a road across our fields to link up with the footpath that brings us out just this side of the village….where the old railway line used to be. A bit of hardcore in bad weather and we’re sorted.
So they can stuff their tollgate…we won’t be paying!
Eco this, eco that….just another word for tax!
It’s bad enough with their blasted windmills…electricity bill up through the roof…but a tax on going a few kilometres is a step too far!

Well, just get rid of it Victor…tonight! You don’t want anyone else knowing you’ve got it…the adjutant is up the wall!

Hang on a minute, how did you know to come round here?

Well, it couldn’t have been the manouches….they were having a face off with our boys with chainsaws at the campsite that night… the only other alternative was a totally irresponsible idiot…and that’s when I thought of you!

That evening, at the gendarmerie station, the adjutant answers the ‘phone.

Here, says a voice, I reckon you should know….

Know what?

Well, that windfarm at the back of Ste. Conasse…someone’s driven a bulldozer in there and there’s a hell of a mess….metal all over the place and the gyppos are carting it off by the truckload…….

The illustration is ‘Mosnac, Dordogne’ by John Piper.

The Green Season

Chinese cabbage and avocado...picked this morning from the garden
Chinese cabbage and avocado…picked this morning from the garden
The Green Season is what hoteliers and others in the tourist trade in Costa Rica call the rainy season – a phrase which does not have quite the same allure, conjuring up as it does the reality of life between May and November when the sunshine of morning is replaced with alarming swiftness by a lightning bolt, a peal of thunder fit for the worst excesses of Wagner and rain fit to soak you in seconds.

I have to admit to liking the rainy season….coming from the U.K. rain has no terrors for me and an afternoon on a balcony in the clouds is an ideal time to settle down to read the books I have ordered from Better World Books U.K. who not only supply used books in good condition at sensible prices but also devote the income to promoting literacy. You could do worse than give them a try.

Still it does mean I have to bustle about a little to make the most of the morning….the washing has to go out early and the veg has to come up in good time unless I fancy seeking out the watercress for the evening’s beef with a black plastic sack over the head and shoulders while Gotterdamerung plays out in the skies above.

I’m particularly pleased with this morning’s veg haul….not just the Chinese cabbage which defeated every attempt to grow it in France, but with the avocados.

Before we moved permanently to Costa Rica we used to come over to avoid the worst of a European winter and on our first visit my husband planted the stones from the avocados we were enjoying.
The fruit on the table are from the tree which sprang from one of those stones…so very much our own avocados.
They are a bit scabby….but they are ours. Untouched by chemicals. Unknown to Monsanto.

The table they are sitting on was made by my husband over forty years ago from an old wreck found in a house he was renovating, using Italian tiles left over from laying new floors.
It has traveled with him where other – ostensibly more valuable – furniture has been jettisoned and it is still in daily use for everything from butchering meat for the freezer to drinks at sundown.
It’s a bit bashed about..not in the first style of elegance…but it’s ours and it serves its purpose.

It’s a quiet life now that the courts have thrown out the proposed development further down the valley….except for collecting and collating the deeds we will need prior to the inspection of the water systems disrupted by the would-be developer’s henchman.

The said henchman has quietened down….still a would-be bully, but now cowed by the courts and by loss of face following a failed machete attack on a sturdy but unarmed gentleman which ended in loss of henchman’s machete and a rock through the windscreen of his van as he reversed from the scene of his humiliation.

Not that initiative does not rear its head….a chap appeared at the door last week trying to interest us in a contribution to laying hardcore on the road from the bridge down to his property (bought from the would-be developer) to benefit his new business.

What might be the nature of his business?

Massage parlours installed in log cabins. He was sure it would attract foreign tourists but no American would travel down the road in the state it was in at present…so, as it would benefit everyone on the road, would we like to contribute?

How would it benefit the neighbours?

We could set up a restaurant.

We declined with thanks.

Life, though pleasant, is not without its inconveniences…

For example, I would be delighted if we could sell the house in France and be free from the taxes and maintenance associated with it.

Much though I love France and the friends we have there, I dread to think what new schemes this or successive governments will dream up to extract blood from already squeezed stones.
I see today there are proposals to tax the use of computers, laptops and tablets the justification being that they access public broadcasting channels….
They might better spend their energies mending the finance ministry’s computer which blew a fuse last week and is not yet up and running again.

Until recently when you bought a television set in France the shop asked for your details and forwarded them to the appropriate official body who would put you on their list.
Therefore anyone with half a brain paid in cash and gave a false name and address.
Some shops winked at this…others demanded ID.

To counter this act of civil disobedience, measures provided that every house would be deemed to have a television set unless it could prove otherwise…
And the standard of proof is high.

If you have never declared ownership, you might get away with it but if you used to have one and then threw it in the bin in disgust at the moronic level of programming you are in trouble.
You can’t just dump a television. France being France you will need proof of disposal.

Burglary? Certificate from the gendarmerie.

Dumped? Certificate from the guardian of the dump.

Put it on the bonfire? Fine for pollution.

No such problem here. You put it out and it promptly disappears. No questions asked.

I know which system I prefer.

If it wasn’t for the European Union and President Obama this would be Paradise.

The European Union has been poking its nose into Caribbean and Central America for some time now.
It has built itself offices in Barbados: top of the range 4x4s are parked outside the best restaurants in Nicaragua, and it has been advising Costa Rica on:

A. A grand plan to zone the Gran Area Metropolitana – the capital and its major suburbs.
Result? Vast amount of money spent and no plan forthcoming.
Just what might be expected of the EU.


B ….more successfully…how to raise taxes.
Also what might be expected of the EU.

The Costa Rican government are eager to follow the advise of the experts on how the twisting of balls will miraculously result in blood gushing from stones and tried eagerly to bring in VAT – that most iniquitous tax – until the Constitutional Court stopped their gallop on the grounds of technical failures in the passage of the appropriate law.

As an alternative, the government brought in a luxury tax…thus making it even more difficult for poorer people to vary their diet.
Since when has an aubergine been a luxury?
Answer…when you buy it in a supermarket catering to the high end trade which obeys the law.
If you buy it from the chap on the market he has as little interest in collecting the tax as you have in paying it.
Olive oil is also a luxury…but the chap on the market doesn’t sell that, so people are stuck with palm oil and its by products.

Another bright idea from the EU was to give local authorities a sound tax base from the rates on property, and experts were seconded to help in this laudable effort.
What seems to have resulted is that ‘technicians’ have clicked on to Google Earth, have calculated the extent of your roof space and whopped on a tax according to their measurements.
Up to you to argue the toss…and if you haven’t argued by the due date there’s no appeal.
Except you didn’t know what would be charged until you went to argue…..and our local authority has discovered a black hole in its finances following the departure of the last mayor.

The Man from the Ministry would be in attendance at the Municipalidad (local government offices) on Tuesdays and Fridays running up to the deadline and Violetta suggested I go with her for support in case of problems.
We went on a Tuesday. The Muni was shut for a conference.
We went again on the Friday. The Muni was open, so we entered and took our place in the queue.

Now the Muni is housed in a traditional colonial style building with offices round a central courtyard, wide eaves giving shelter from the sun. The door of the appropriate office was open and customer number one was being dealt with.
We were third and fourth in the queue and sat on the chairs provided. As time passed, more people arrived, the supply of chairs ran dry and staff brought out benches.
People began chatting. People produced their papers, comparing same. Problems were perceived.
A member of the local tax staff was raked out of her lair and the perceived problems were explained. At length.

There were members of vast families with incredibly confused documents thanks to the habit of chopping a bit off a holding to give to a son or daughter to build a house and not remembering to get it registered properly….there were cadastral plans which resembled blobs on flypaper….there were people whose property was held in a company who had not supplied themselves with a power of attorney….

The member of staff took a deep breath and began to send people to the appropriate places to get their documents sorted…a vast file took off for the Post Office where copies of powers of attorney could be obtained…others were busy on their mobiles summoning family members whose signatures would be needed and a few were sent in search of their lawyers.

She inspected the remnant. My documents were passed as being adequate, as were those of Violetta and number two in the queue.

Chatting resumed.
I don’t mind waiting in Costa Rica….the chatting is good for my Spanish and the knowledge I pick up of all the infinitesimal trivia which make up the bricks of daily life is invaluable.

The first customer came out and number two rose to enter the office as the Man from the Ministry came out at the charge, heading for the exit.
Given the sheaf of papers clutched by the first customer I wondered whether he had decided to make a permanent bolt for freedom, but the local lady explained that he had gone for a coffee.

After half an hour people were wondering loudly if he had gone to pick the coffee rather than just drink it and when, a little while later, he was seen entering the courtyard, number two shot into the office, ready for action.
But he had headed instead for the loos on the other side of the building.
After some little time Don Hugo went over and kicked the door.
The Man from the Ministry emerged and, drawing breath like a diver about to plunge into the depths, entered the office.

This interview went smoothly and then Violetta and I entered together, neatly blocking his attempt to escape round the corner of his desk.
Resigned, he started the process.

It appeared that the Ministry has designated the base value of land in the canton according to criteria which seemed as much of a blank to him as to us…but since ours were at rock bottom we were not complaining.
So, given that, he moved on to the nature of the property itself.

He pulled up a map showing the contour lines which in both our cases evidently passed muster as hilly…

On to the next…the house itself. He pulled up Google Earth. Our houses appeared as faint blurs. Google Earth had clearly not been doing much updating lately.
Collapse of EU system.

Well, Senoras, said he, let’s just say traditional build, traditional materials….tax as last year and no declarations of value for another three years.

We agreed, signed and left at a smart trot. Mission accomplished.

Another lesson the Costa Rican government has learned from the EU is to cover a rip off by claiming that something which is going to cost you an arm and a leg is for your own security.

So now we are faced with changing our car’s number plate in order to have a ‘secure’ one.
One with a sort of watermarked map on it…one that can’t be duplicated for nefarious purposes. Supposedly.
One that costs an arm and a leg.

Our household operates on a sort of division of labour basis.
If it’s fiscal or legal it’s mine.
If it’s the car it’s his.

So my husband was OIC of Operation Replace Numberplates.

There are two ways of doing this.

A. You go to the National Registry special office in the suburbs of the capital bearing your documents, proof of payment for arm and leg at a bank and your numberplates.
You queue.
Once your papers pass the desk you wait an hour until the new numberplates are handed over.

The Men were going to the San Jose house…not too far from the offices…so I suggested that this would be the best solution.

No, it appeared that it would not. It involved wasting time waiting in the National Registry when much more exciting activities could be undertaken.

So it would be

B. You go to the local post office armed with your documents, proof of payment for arm and leg at a bank and your numberplates.
Once your papers pass the desk you wait six working days for the return of your plates…and in the interim cannot take the car on the road.

Danilo had to change the plates on his motorbike, so The Men decided to make a joint trip to the Post Office.

All went swimmingly…..

Except that the six days had lengthened to twelve….
Except that there would now be two weekends to add on…and the public holiday on May Day and, to add insult to injury, the day on which the President of the U.S.A. arrived in the country for a visit whose purpose eludes me would be a non working day for civil servants in the San Jose area – mostly because they would be unable to get into work for all the security cordons in the centre where offices for four blocks round his destinations will be off limits to their normal occupants.

Given that May Day is a Wednesday and Obama arrives on Friday a fair number won’t see much point in going into work on Thursday…so don’t hold your breath for the twelve working days either…Costa Rican civil servants can make a French ‘pont’ with the best of them.

Normally there would be no great problem.
We can drive up the back road into town…park the car behind the football pitch – a no go zone for the traffic police – and walk up the hill to go shopping or get the bus into the capital.

But there is a complication.
A friend from South Africa is arriving at the airport on what will be working day thirteen.

Fingers crossed!

A Glass Half Empty

Hello Jean Marc! Where’ve you been hiding yourself recently? What do you fancy?

Oh, a glass of Claude’s rose would go down well….no more of Albert’s white these days I suppose?

No…what with having to pull out so many of his vines thanks to getting esca supplies are a bit limited, even for us and it seems Victor bought a whole barrique off him.

Victor! Spending money!

Well, no…more like a swap, I think. Young Laurent is clearing the vines and a few other jobs in return….but I shouldn’t be telling you that, you being a taxman and all!

Not my problem anyway….and when have I ever shopped anyone? I believe in letting people alone…and I just wish they’d feel the same about me.

Well, you can’t say that the tax offices are exactly bursting at the seams with happy people dropping in to say ‘Bonjour’ can you!

No….usually you only see them a week before their tax returns are due when they all come rolling in wanting us to fill out the forms for them.
Not that I mind. I like to see the oldies and have a chat..makes a change from staring at a screen all day.
No, it’s just that since it all came out about our beloved Budget Minister having secret Swiss and Singapore bank accounts life’s not worth living for us at the tax office.
You go out for lunch and some clown’s asking you if you want to pay in euros or Swiss francs….and I’ve lost count of the people who’ve come up to me in the street and started on about politicians…as if I can do anything about it!

You’re not the only one with problems on that score.
Clement was in last night and he said Plouc’s office was full of worried clients, wondering just where their respected notaire had stuffed the money they’ve been hiding from you lot….and Madame d’Enculade was on the ‘phone all day…gibbering away.

Well, she generally is after eleven in the morning at the best of times…

Anyway, Clement put two and two together.
You know her husband is always going to Singapore on business trips?

Yes, to get away from his wife and enjoy a bit of more congenial company I always thought – after all what business can a guy with a fur coat firm do in Singapore except run up expenses to claim against tax?

Plouc’s business, that’s what. Clement reckons he’s a courrier for Plouc and his mate at the Credit Agricole and that’s why his wife was having fits. Worried about her fur coat days coming to an end…

I wouldn’t think she has much to worry about…Plouc’ll be the next deputy come the elections so no one’s going to touch his little activities, are they now!
Look at what happened to the taxman who fell foul of our minister when he was just a deputy!
He’d done an inspection of a big prune co op and found they’d been fiddling the books for years, so slapped them with a huge amount of back tax.
They go bleating to the deputy who arranges with his mate, the then Budget Minister, to let them off the hook while the poor bugger of a taxman is told to sling his.
He had his doubts about the deputy, even then some twenty years ago, but when he started looking into his affairs he was disciplined…no promotion and no work. Sitting there twiddling his thumbs waiting for retirement.
I tell you, Plouc has nothing to worry about!

Yes, I suppose you’re right….
Look at the way Dubas, the Senator here, carried on for years.
Whopping loans from Credit Agricole based on a few securities he was allowed to keep in his own safe deposit box at the bank then one fine day he walks in and takes them out. And the bank says nothing.

And when there was a change of government and they went after him look what happened!

Yes, the local court let him off and poor Alain the bank manager got it in the neck! What could he do about it…he ‘phoned the regional office and they told him to let Dubas do as he pleased….

Now that’s a bastard whose affairs I’d love to look into….but fat chance. He’s untouchable round here. Knows where the bodies are buried.

Probably ordered the burials from what I hear.
No, I see what you mean. Plouc’s safe and so are his clients.
Still, aren’t the politicians going to have to declare what they’ve got?

For what that’s worth! Did you hear Sarko’s prime minister on the box?

Yes, he said he had a house he bought twenty years ago, a bit in the bank and two old bangers…

Which, given his huge estate north of Paris, is a bit like Louis XIV claiming Versailles as a garden shed and his golden coach as a wheelbarrow – and you notice he didn’t mention the shares he has in his consultancy business.
No, they’ll find a way to fiddle it….just the way Plouc’s been advising his clients for years to avoid tax on their property.

How does he do that?

Easy peasy. You put the property into an SCI – a property company held by you and your family. Then, just like the banks with their sub prime mortgages you start chopping it up. One person has the usufruit….the right to use the property for their lifetime…and you – the bigwig – have the nu propriete…..that is the title to it.
So you don’t have any value in it…but when your front man dies you don’t have to pay inheritance tax because it was yours all along. Just need to be a bit careful who has the usufruit, but apart from that it’s foolproof.

Oh. So is that how Hollandouille fiddled his wealth tax when he stood for President?

No. He just used the criteria of a different tax by which he would come in under the figure to pay it.

But didn’t anyone notice?

Of course they did….but remember what happened to the taxman with the prunes.
You don’t want to spend the rest of your working life in an windowless office with no computer and nothing to do, do you!

So what about all this tax evasion…foreign bank accounts and whatnot?

And how are we going to find out about them, tell me that! They’re hardly likely to own up!
No, I’ll tell you what will happen.
We’ll be instructed to look at all the retired English. They have pensions and a lot of them have them paid into their bank accounts in England.
Most of them don’t have much French and don’t know how to read their tax forms so don’t know they are supposed to declare any bank accounts held outside France.

Well, so has everyone who lives in France, whether they’re French or foreign.

Yes, but most of us have no reason to have a foreign bank account where these English do. So they’re easy meat.
They do their tax return and say what their income is and whatever and then if it looks as if their pension is paid abroad we’ll spring on them and ask them what account it’s paid into.
If they can’t explain it away except by having an account abroad we’ll fine them 1,500 Euros and ask them to justify everything for the last ten years.

That’s a bit rotten, isn’t it! After all, they’re declaring their income.

Well, that’s how it will be. You know how this country is run.
You let the small guys work on the black to keep them quiet: you let the big guys pay their banks and lawyers to hide their money and you wallop the people in the middle.
This way we’ll make any number of investigations, rake in the fines and the government will say its strategy of tax evasion is working while the big boys carry on as usual.

For goodness’ sake! We need another revolution!

And I need another drink…..yes, another one of Claude’s will be fine….