Twin bills mean millions for dedicated slush funds

Lawmakers are poised to give final passage for two bills that create dedicated taxes that will benefit public and private organizations. One tax is likely to cost every Costa Rican, young and old, about $4 a year. Neither of the measures will have any effect on the country’s financial deficit because the money collected goes to special funds.

The first is the wildlife tax that is contained in a bill that was sent to the Sala IV for review last week.

This measure creates a $7 tax on every municipal tax payment. Since there are an estimated 1,360,055 dwelling units in Costa Rica, according to the 2011 national census, the tax is likely to generate about $9.5 million.

But that is not all. The tax also will be levied on those who pay the national road tax. There are slightly more than a million vehicles in Costa Rica, so the tax will generate $7 million more.

The tax also will be levied on every construction permit, which is a number that varies with the economy.

The bill was styled as an effort to end sports hunting in the country. But the proposal allows what is called subsistence hunting that would seem to be a big loophole. Most persons involved with wildlife agree that the problem is illegal hunting of any kind and not sports hunting.

The bill sets up a wildlife fund to administer the money that comes in. Beneficiaries are likely to be the organizations that passed petitions to bring the measure before lawmakers.

The tax also is linked to an inflation index, so the amount will increase every year when someone pays road tax on a vehicle or pays real estate taxes to a municipality.

The second tax is designed to create a slush fund to fight trafficking in persons. Although there are few such crimes reported each year, the new law
probably will generate more complaints because presumed trafficking victims will benefit with residency here or by a free trip to their country of residence.

This is the bill, No. 17.594, that also would penalize anyone who describes Costa Rica as a sex tourism destination online or in any campaigns even if that is true. The bill also requires media outlets to donate part of the space or time to a new Coalición Nacional Contra el Tráfico Ilícito de Migrantes y la Trata de Personas. The bill does not only cover sex exploitation but labor exploitation, too.

A recent exploitation case came to light in March when two persons were found in the company of Ecuadorian youngsters who had been smuggled into the country from Panamá. The children were en route to the United States, said the Poder Judicial.

A case of alleged sex exploitation involved a San José strip club where the female dancers lodged complaints about pay and working conditions. Male managers were detained.

The tax that will be managed by the new coalition is $1 paid by every person leaving Costa Rica by air, according to one version of the bill.

Based on traffic at Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela and Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia, this tax will raise about $2 million a year. The coalition is made up of representatives from 20 public agencies. Just 20 percent is being allowed for administration, and 80 percent or some $1.6 million a year for other purposes.

One role of the coalition is to approve or reject projects from diverse public institutions, entities, non-governmental organizations and international organizations.

The law is unusual because it criminalizes the act of transporting someone for purposes of prostitution, be the passenger male or female. But adult prostitution, itself, is not penalized. The bill also targets those who would rent rooms or homes to persons involved in trafficking.

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