What I am going to suggest as an answer to the fiscal crisis in Costa Rica is simple.

Collect the taxes that are due and payable through enforcement.

In the U.S., we had the IRS with frightening power. When I lived in Russia we had what called the “Tax Police” with terrifying power. The IRS can take away almost anything when one failed to pay or were caught evading taxes. I remember an audit were I received threatening letters almost weekly from the IRS. Fortunately, we were right and they ended up paying us. In Russia, I had the experience of an attempted sting on our company in Moscow by seemingly nice guys with concealed Gryazev-Shipunov semi-automatics.

With new legislation and electronic invoicing, it appears that the government is getting serious about tax collection. In my limited experience, in the past, these things have been a “wink and a nod” with a little money exchanging hands. Costa Rica is almost out of time before it faces bankruptcy. Being nice or failure to do what is necessary has created a populace that doesn’t believe in the rule of law.

Costa Rica needs to create an enforcement department through the Directorate General de Taxation or the Ministerio de Hacienda that has fangs not teeth. They need to greatly expand their audit department with teams with the power to spot check the financial records of businesses with a 24-hour notice appointment. When cases are found of failure to pay the CAJA, for example, the evading company should be given 90 days to pay the past due payments or be closed. If their recording keeping is sloppy, they need an education with follow up audits. If their records show fraud then it is jail time.

To put the fear of the “tax police” into the hearts of cheaters their businesses need to be exposed through the media.

Costa Rica is a wonderful place to live but it is too forgiving when laws are intentionally broken. It is time to get serious.

Ken Beedle

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