Tourism officials are miffed at being stood up

Tourism leaders are steaming because the central government canceled at the last minute a meeting Tuesday.

As a result, the possibility of legal action becomes more likely.

The tourism chambers and associations had one meeting last week with central government officials to discuss four body blows to the industry.  Now they say that the abrupt cancelation of the scheduled meeting is a bad sign.

The Cámara Nacional de Turismo was joined by the Asociación Costarricense de Operadores Turísticos, the Cámara Costarricense de Hoteles and the Asociacion Para la Proteccion del Turismo en Costa Rica.

In a statement the organizations said that tourism was being hit at the worst time of year. After the meeting last week, most tourism operators were optimistic. The meeting Tuesday was supposed to be a roundtable for discussion.

There are four complaints. The first is the effort by the tax collectors to exact a 13 percent sales levy for the first time on a number of tourism activities, based on an April decree by then-president Laura Chinchilla. Although the decree was issued in the waning days of her

tenure, the administration of Luis Guillermo Solís had embraced it and even is pushing for back payments of taxes from 2006.

The tax is being levied on any tourism activity by any firm that has a fixed office, based on unusual working in the general sales tax law.

The law says that centros de recreo y similares are subject to the sales tax, but it does not give definitions. The new administration interprets “recreational centers and similar” very broadly.

Tourism officials also are irked because a presidential decree placed the industry in a secondary position within the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio. The exact impact of that reorganization is yet to be determined.

The tourism leaders also are seeking help for the sector and changes in other legislation such as one that assesses high fees for selling alcohol.
They also oppose a decision by the tax agency, the Dirección General de Tributación, to order banks to withhold 2 percent from every credit card transaction as an advance payment of income tax liability.

Pablo Heriberto Abarca, president of the Cámera Nacional, said that his organization has called a general meeting of tourism operators and legal action by a top law firm against the 13 percent sales tax is anticipated.

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