Tax chief trying to make paying luxury tax easier

Francisco Villalobos is trying to make paying the luxury tax easier for English speakers.

The nation’s top tax collector has a message for those who have not paid their luxury home assessment.

“You do not need to pay the penalty to pay the tax.”

He is Francisco Villalobos Brenes, whose official title is director general de Tributación. He has been on the job since the middle of last December, and he inherited the job of collecting the luxury home tax.

One of his first revelations was that some 1,000 persons who reported their house as a luxury home last year and paid the tax did not do so this year. The tax was due Jan.15.

Villalobos is a lawyer and law professor who in private life questioned the constitutionality of the luxury tax penalties in columns he wrote for a national newspaper. Now he said he wants to make life easier for taxpayers.

Because he speaks English fluently, he is comfortable addressing the expats, who may live here part-time. He said Thursday he just prepared a list of 30 frequently asked questions that will be posted to the Tributación Web site. These are in English. He also has drafted a non-threatening letter, also in English, asking those subject to the tax to pay. But he also is the man who authorized the publication of the names of individuals and corporations who did not pay the tax this year.

Villalobos said he is aware of the complexities and confusion that accompanied the enactment of the tax in late 2009 and early 2010. Then those who owned homes around a value of $180,000 or more probably had to hire an appraiser to determine the value of their home. Due to the devaluation of the U.S. dollar over the last year, the threshold for payment probably is about $200,000 now.

Villalobos said he was creating a form in English with just four blanks: Name, location of the property, estimated value and the land value. The simple form will be used to register those who should be paying the tax. And the taxpayer will be able to make and estimate of the values.

The luxury tax law contains draconian penalties, including a fine 10 times the tax. But there may be part-time residents of Costa Rica, such as U.S. snowbirds, who are unaware that they owe the tax. The money is supposed to pay for housing for those now living in slums.

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