Report urges more weapons to fight sales tax cheats

The nation’s tax collecting agency should propose legal reforms to counter the evasion of sales tax, according to the Contraloría de la República, the fiscal watchdog.

The Contraloría came out with a summary of a report Monday in which it said sales tax evasion had dipped from an estimated 28.6 percent in 2003 to 18.2 in 2008. The agency attributed the decline, in part, to the use of credit cards and also to greater contact among other agencies, including aduana, the customs department.

The report said that Costa Rica was in the same league as México and Argentina in the amount of sale tax evasion.

The report referred to “other sources” as places where Tributación might find out about tax cheats. Among these sources are banks, and Tributación is promoting legislation now that would allow access to bank customers’ accounts without probable cause and without a judicial order. The idea is meeting some resistance in the legislature.
The Contraloría did not specify what types of legal reforms the tax collectors should seek.

The evasion of sales tax on imports, mostly from Panamá is a continuing problem, mostly because the border there is wide open. Judicial agents reported Monday that they had confiscated 530 boxes of alcohol, mostly whisky, at a home in Darizara de Paso Canoas near the Panamá line. The haul was estimated at 60 million colons or about $120,000. The boxes had been assembled from small shipments carried in passenger cars, agents said.

Two men involved in the operation fled when agents arrived, said the Judicial Investigating Organization. The load was supposed to be transported to the Central Valley by heavy truck, agents said.

Such smuggling is common and said to be getting worse. Police and investigators said that more is going on because they do not have the authority to stop and search vehicles without probable cause. That was the gist of a recent Sala IV constitutional court decision.

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