Tax collector devises new lottery to catch cheats

The nation’s tax collecting agency is embarking on another series of raffles to put a spotlight on tax cheats.

This time the agency, the Dirección General de Tributación, said that those individuals or corporations that pay for goods or services with a debit or credit card automatically will be enrolled in the monthly drawings.

The last time the agency created a raffle, officials asked the public to submit paper facturas or receipts. The agency then compared these against individuals and firms on the sales tax and income tax rolls.

During this month, each purchase of 3,000 colons or multiples thereof with a credit card issued in Costa Rica will generate an electronic entry into the raffle. The first drawing will be Aug. 14.

If the payment is for professionals services, the number of electronic entries will be doubled. Professionals like private physicians and lawyers have been a challenge to the tax collectors because a lot of the payments are under the table. In fact, the agency is about to start an electronic invoicing system so that all the income of certain professionals are available for inspection.

The agency, part of the Ministerio de Hacienda, has jacked up the prizes for this raffle. Each month prizes totaling 50 million colons will be awarded. That’s about $100,000. First price will be half that, 25 million colons. There will be five lesser premiums, all selected electronically.

The credit card issuers will have the responsibility of assigning raffle entries to each purchase, said Tributación.

The raffle will start fresh each month because the purchases of the previous month will not be considered, said Tributación. Cash withdrawals from automatic tellers will not be considered.

Electronic drawings will be monthly through December, the agency said. Winners will be listed on the ministry Web site, the agency said.

Tax cheats will be revealed when the agency cross-checks the credit card information with tax reports by individual vendors, it said. 

The cash prizes appear to be motivation so that bills are paid with credit cards. The agency has had access to credit card data for years, although it is unclear on how it obtained this right. In fact, some officials have been urging that citizens pay nearly all their bills by credit card.

There are exceptions to the raffle. Payments for public services or public utilities do not count.

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