Christmas is something short of ho ho ho for employers. The approach to the holidays includes the deadline for paying aguinaldos to employees.
This is the mandatory Christmas bonus that equal a twelfth of what the employee earned in the last year, from Dec. 1 to Nov. 30. There are some complexities.
The Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social has a calculator on its Web site to figure the aguinaldo for each employee, but the device is nothing more than a spreadsheet that adds up salaries for the last 12 months and divides the total by 12.
This is not always accurate. Employers also have to include in the total any value given that is not money. That may include room and board for a live-in maid. The ministry calls this salario en especie. Unless the employer can estimate accurately this non-cash payment, the ministry will consider the amount to be 50 percent of any cash the employee received.
This would even include lunch for any day workers.
The deadline this year is Dec. 20, a Friday.
The aguinaldo can be figured easily simply by consulting the forms that have been filed with the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social each month. If the expat employer has not been making payment to the Caja for the employee, he or she should be especially generous because the last thing an employe wants is a works ministry inspector to drop by.
Employees are warned continually that they have a right to an aguinaldo and they are instructed how to file a complaint. There are about 10,000 such complaints each year.
The up side is that Caja social charges are not paid on aguinaldos. A political flap is growing this week because some politicians are claiming their opponents are seeking to have the aguinaldo subject to taxation. At this point it is not.
The government is very liberal with aguinaldos. Members of boards of directors of government institutions get the bonus.
Expats also might face a gardener who was hired as a contractor. Recent stories have shown that most so-called contractors are really employees and, therefore, entitled to an aguinaldo. If the individual is running a business that provides a service to more than just a few people and the individual gives valid facturas for payment, an aguinaldo probably is not warranted.