Today is the end of the fiscal year, and those in business can only hope for better times in the next 12 months.
The year has been plagued by uncertainty, lax enforcement of immigration laws, still enforcement of others and a manipulated colon-dollar rate.
There may be as many as 250,000 persons unemployed and actively seeking jobs. A recent job fair promising 1,000 openings drew 13,000 persons.
The uncertainty stems from the central government effort to put in place a 14 to 15 percent value-added tax. The measure is in the legislature. Those in business are hard-pressed to estimate the impact of the measure, particularly since the final form is not known.
The government eased the introduction by calling for an initial 14 percent rate that would quickly rise to 15 percent. Such taxes assess every step of the production process, and they generate far more government income than a sales tax, which is what the country has now.
Also hanging over business here is the government’s growing deficit and annual budget deficit. No amount of new taxes will cover these expenses, and the Luis Guillermo Solís administration has failed to impress the public with its competence.
In fact, Central American Date, the online financial reporter, just called the country an ineptocracy, meaning a place run by the
inept. The Urban Dictionary describes the term as “a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers”
The producers are being reduced in number. The full impact of Intel Corp shutting down its chip-making facilities here has yet to be felt. Other, smaller firms have either failed or decided to move to countries where the salaries and social charges for employees are less.
Agricultural firms in the western part of the country are dealing with an unprecedented drought while those in the east are recovering from massive flooding.
Immigration officials have been allowing Nicaraguans to enter the country to work on tourism visas, and many expats have declined to become official residents because the government is assessing an assessment for the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. Illegal employees seem to be the norm in some industries, and these do not pay taxes.
On the other hand, the tax officials are known to change the rules. These officials tried to slap tourism firms with five years of back sales tax because they changed the definition of what should be covered. A resolution to that problem still is in the legislature.
Th annual tax return for most businesses is due Dec. 15 this year, and the Dirección General de Tributación is promising more oversight.