Tax collector throws up electronic hurdles for filing

Monday was not a good day for payers of sales tax.

Tributación updated the computerized tax reporting system, but the update had some flaws. Meanwhile, the older version 1.0.01 is displayed prominently on the agency’s Web site, but taxpayers cannot use that now.

Tributación is in the second month of requiring taxpayers to use the computer system and file the monthly return electronically. Large retailers like keep their own computer software in-house. But Tributación requires Costa Rican businesses to download a version of its software into every company PC. And technicians at Tributación periodically change the version.

That was the warning Friday when individuals sought to file the obligatory June monthly sales tax report. The deadline was Monday because the 15th of the month, the usual deadline, was Sunday.

A.M. Costa Rica’s parent company prevailed even though no sales tax is collected on advertising sales. The firm still has to file a report. But it took a company executive all day to create and file electronically the one-page report. And that was with help from employees at Tributación.

The agency’s offices were crowded with taxpayers trying to use the updated system, and telephone lines were swamped. Many calls went unanswered when two persons in charge of certain aspects of the software went to lunch at the same time.

Tributación has its customer service office downtown near the pedestrian mall. But technical support has been moved to the Outlet Mall in San Pedro.

After struggling with downloading and trying to make the new version 1.3.0 operational all morning, the company executive sought help at the downtown office. Workers there were perplexed and facing a line of confused taxpayers, but one, Marianella León, discovered what was wrong in a telephone call to a technician.

“By the way,” he said, “you have to dump all of the previous program before installing the new one.”

With that advice taken, the system appeared to function well. That is until it was time to file the sales tax report electronically. The computer responded that passwords were incorrect.

That puzzle required a trip to the ministry building itself where there was another crowd of puzzled taxpayers. The new version appears to have eaten all the passwords and rearranged them arbitrarily with user names. That took two hours to resolve.
But by 3:42 p.m. this company’s sales tax report was dispatched into the Internet for filing.

The filing situation was so messed up that Tributación employes were thinking the unthinkable. They suggested that the agency might waive fines this month for late filing. The problem appears to have affected taxpayers all over the country. Many are some distance from Tributación offices and in-person help.

Meanwhile, faced with a computer program with flaws, other Tributación workers said that the agency would update the system to another version in time for sales tax deadline next month.

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