Finance ministry asks citizens to report tax cheats who forget facturas

The finance ministry has launched a campaign against the so-called local discount. The discount is the sales tax that the vendor does not collect if the customer does not want a receipt.

Costa Rica’s tax collection depends on facturas, the special, numbered invoices that only certain printers can produce. Retailers also can produce facturas through cash registers.

The idea is that inspectors from the Ministerio de Hacienda’s tax collecting agency can view the factura copies to see that the sales tax has been paid and that the company has declared the correct amount for income tax.

Unlike past campaigns there does not seem to be an economic incentive for those who file complaints against merchants. In fact, most shoppers are happy to skip paying the sales tax, particularly on big ticket items like furniture. In the past, the agency conducted cash raffles based on facturas that residents submitted.

The sales tax discount usually only involves cash payments. Credit card sales create a paper trail that the Dirección General de Tributación can follow.

Big offenders for off-the-books transactions are professionals. The ministry is creating a central, electronic system that will create receipts for payments to lawyers, physicians and others who are notorious tax cheats. The ministry said that the campaign to have customers file complaints about the lack of receipts will continue for a year.

Vice President Helio Fallas, who also is minister of Hacienda, announced the project Thursday. The campaign began now because of the midyear vacation that starts today, and officials said that many

Graphic encourages vacationers and shoppers to file complaints against hotels, restaurants and stores that do not provide facturas.

Graphic encourages vacationers and shoppers to file complaints against hotels, restaurants and stores that do not provide facturas.

Costa Ricans will be visiting out of town. Officials said they plan to step up the campaign at other times of the year when there is a lot of retail activity. They named the Día de la Madre,  Día del Niño, Christmas and New Year’s.

The use of printed facturas has been diminished by the arrival of the computer. Many merchants can create their own facturas and print them out. The pad of number sheets no longer is a requirement.

The ministry is using the social media to spread work of the campaign. Complaints can be sent to the ministry Web site or by telephone.

The campaign is part of the first stage of the new government’s deficit reduction plan.

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