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Holy Week

OH!  I forgot to post earlier this week to let you know that….EVERYTHING is closed tomorrow-Sunday for Easter.  Thursday is Holy Thursday, Friday is good Friday then of course Sunday is Easter.

Those with cars will be heading for the beach.  Hotels are booked months in advance for this weekend.  Buses do not run and most business are closed.  Business pretty much stops for these 4 days since the buses are not running.

Sunday (EASTER) nothing will be open so if you have any shopping to do, get it done today or on Saturday.

Streets will be clear and you will feel as though you are in a ghost town anywhere within the Central Valley.

Very nice, very peaceful weekend and no fireworks for this holiday.  This is our favorite week of the entire year for all of the reasons stated above.

Enjoy!

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Book on Costa Rica

Wow, it has been a long time since I have written anything on the blog. It is because I have been so busy writing my book that will soon be available to all my readers. This book is a condensed version of everything you need to know if you are considering moving or investing in Costa Rica. From residency options to moving and working in Costa Rica. More information that you can find in one place anywhere on the internet.

This is the information that I give to my clients when they are considering moving or investing in Costa Rica and it has helped many make the right choices for their family. It is a detailed book that won’t leave any question as to what type of residency you can qualify for or what type of corporation you need to set up and why.

I hope that Ramiro and I will be able to have this book available soon on the website. Until then, continue to call and write with your questions about Costa Rica.

This book also tells you all you need to know about bringing pets into the country and about the schools that are available so that you can make the right choice for your children.

Keep an eye out, check back, and hopefully within a couple of weeks, the book “What you should know before you invest in or Move to Costa Rica” will be available soon.

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Costa Rican Telephone Numbers Will Have 1 More Digit in March

According to the ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad) one more digit will be added on March 20 to all phone numbers (both commercial, residential plus mobile phones) to leave space for future expansion.

The new numbers will look like this:

  • Residential and Commercial: add numnber 2 at the beginning
    • Now: xxx-xxxx
    • After March 20: 2xxx-xxxx
  • Mobile Phones
    • Now: 3xx-xxxx or 8xx-xxxx
    • After March 20: 83xx-xxxx or 88xx-xxxx

The change will be done at 00 hours and there will be no disruption of services. However keep in mind:

  • To update all marketing, paper, signs, contact cards.
  • To update your contact information on the Internet / web sites
  • To update the phone numbers in you cellphone / palm, etc

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Two Horses

Two Horses
Author – Unknown

Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it.

From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse. But if you stop your car, or are walking by, you will notice something quite amazing….

Looking into the eyes of one horse will disclose that he is blind. His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made a good home for him.

This alone is amazing.

If you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell.
Looking around for the source of the sound, you will see that it comes from the smaller horse in the field.

Attached to the horse’s halter is a small bell.

It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.

As you stand and watch these two friends,
you’ll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse,
and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk
to where the other horse is,
trusting that he will not be led astray.

When the horse with the bell returns
to the shelter of the barn each evening,
it stops occasionally and looks back,
making sure that the blind friend isn’t too far behind to hear the bell.

Good friends are like that …

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IRS in Costa Rica

IRS Winning friends among local bank officials!
The sign of things to come: Banco Cuscatlan now requires citizens or resident aliens of the United States to fill out a W9 form for personal accounts at the firm’s banks in Costa Rica.

Why?  Because Citigroup bought Grupo Cuscatlan from Corporación UBC Internacional S.A. for $1.51 billion in cash and stock. Grupo Cuscatlan has operations in El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras and Panamá.

Most United States citizens are familiar with a W9 form.  It is an Internal Revenue Service form used to obtain a person’s taxpayer identification number.   In the case of individuals, the identification is the Social Security number.

The purpose of the form is to acquire information from taxpayers for the United States government’s tax collection efforts.  A web version of the form that can be filled out online and printed can be found HERE!

The bank is also requiring account holders to sign a form that states the following:

“The undersigned hereby authorizes Banco Cuscatlan de Costa Rica, S.A. to report, on an annual basis, the information on the account holder and his or her account(s) and any interest earned on such product(s) or account(s) held in Banco Cuscatlan de Costa Rica S.A. to the United States Internal Revenue Service and to withhold any United States tax.”

This is just another scary story of the transparency phantom stalking bank information.

Recently, an expat sold his home in Costa Rica.  He almost put the proceeds of the sale in his Cuscatlan personal account.  There is no capital gains tax in Costa Rica but there is in the United States.  In theory, the bank could withhold money and send it to the United States government as backup withholding to cover taxes due.

If United States expats do not fill out the form, their personal accounts can be closed and/or the bank can withhold as much as 30 percent of any moneys in the accounts.  The deadline for compliance is the end of this January.

Many expats believe their money in Costa Rica is safe from their home country’s tax authorities.  Some countries do not required the payment of taxes on holdings or gains from investments in Costa Rica.  The United States does.  No matter where a United States citizen goes, he or she owes taxes on the money he or she makes on investments.

Many expats from the United States try to hide their gains here by using companies to hold assets.

Some go as far as to use Costa Ricans to hold their stock to hide their profits.  Those that do
have no control over their assets, and some take a beating from white-collar thieves.

This kind of reporting to the United States is just the start.   Cuscatlan is just taking the lead because it is a United States banking institution. GE Consumer Finance purchased 49.99 peercent of BAC San José in May 2005, and since that purchase, the bank has scrutinize accounts very closely.  The bank continues to close many questionable accounts held by expats before the purchase.

HSBC recently purchased Banex.  HSBC Bank USA has close ties with the Costa Rican subsidiary and probably will be requiring the same forms as Cuscatlan very soon.

All these facts mean the accounts once used by expats to hide money in Costa Rica are almost gone.  Most banks, even the ones not mentioned here now, require any new customer to fill out a form or sign an agreement that permits the bank to give information about the account and the account holders to any authority, including the U. S. Internal Revenue Service.

The best practice when living and investing in Costa Rica is to be on the up and up with all ones business dealings.  This includes paying one’s taxes to Costa Rica and the home country.  It makes for a better nights sleep.

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

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Deposit Needed

World Pet Travel/Guardian Angels CR and many other pet transporters have encountered problems recently with people contacting us and asking for help with their international moves for their pets.

Just this week Frank and Susana Wheeler from London England, new to Costa Rica, refused to pay for the services that they requested that I have been working on for months in preparation of their pets and their relocation arrangements for housing which they requested me to find them temporary and permanent housing. Since these cats originated in Spain then went onto London and were on their way to Costa Rica there was quite a bit of time and effort put into this move.

Prior to the Wheelers, John and Mary Harding of Phoenix Arizona needed help getting their 13 cats to Costa Rica. After making all of the necessary arrangements with the airlines and customs, the Hardings decided that they did not want to pay WPT for their time or expenses. They would pay for the airline expense but that was it. This has happened 3 times this week and we have been out hundreds of dollars in international phone calls and other expenses involved and will not be reimbursed by these dishonest and cheating people.

For years we have done this at no charge to our client and have never had a problem with our clients following through on their obligation or proceeding with their moves.

As of late, many professional pet transporters including World Pet Travel/Guardian Angels CR have had a problem with people not following through on their move after we and other agents have gone through all the motions setting up the move.

Setting up an international move requires a lot of time, phone calls and contacts with agents and veterinarians in the destination country as well as the departure country. Often times we spend a minimum of 2-3 days pulling everything together for the move with the help of the airlines, other agents and brokers in the country of destination.

After we have made all of the necessary arrangements for this move, including setting up airline reservations and customs arrival requirements, many people have backed out of their obligation to make the move with our company and others. This seems to be a problem across the board with professional pet transporters that work together to insure the safest and most stress-free trip for your pet. If you read our blog, you know that we have been doing this successfully with 100’s of happy clients and 4 legged friends.

Because of this, we will be requiring a deposit from this point forward (February 1, 2008) to work up international moving arrangements for each pet.

World Pet Travel/Guardian Angels CR now requests a deposit of $50.00 per pet to move forward with making the necessary arrangements for your international move.

We are very sorry that it has come to this but at this point, we see no other way to be reimbursed for our expenses when someone backs out of their move at the last minute.

This fee will be credited to your move if you complete your move with us. If you back out at the last minute, your deposit will not be refunded.

Please note pet transportation when handled by a professional pet transporter is tax deductible.

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Taxes and Tipping

Though waiters and waitresses across the country might prefer that you didn’t know, you should know, if you don’t already, that 10% tip and 13% sales tax are automatically included in the bill at restaurants-so unless you want to add an extra reward for exceptional services, you can hold onto those extra coins.  Many restaurants put both prices, with and without tax, on the menu and some may sneakily list only the pre-tax price.  When in doubt, ask, to avoid an unpleasant surprise at the end of your meal.

In other situations, common sense will guide you.  Prepare to tip more often in fancier establishments, or if someone goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip here unless they had to huff and puff over gargantuan luggage.

In mid-range to upscale hotels, maids should get a couple of dollars per day and porters should get 500 colones or $1 per bag.

When leaving a parking space, you may notice the hopeful presence of a self-appointed car guard who’s been watching over your vehicle. (watchingman) They expect about 150 colones ($0.30) per hour for that service.

Sometimes at a cab stand, boys will rush to “hail” a cab for you and open the door-hoping for a few small coins (perhaps 100 colones or $0.20) in return.

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Live & Work Legally in Costa Rica

Obtain your Costa Rican Permanent Resident Investor Status through our Government approved reforestation project.

SPECIFIC BENEFITS USING THIS PROGRAM TO OBTAIN LEGAL STATUS

If the applicant chooses to obtain their Permanent Resident Investor status through this type of project they receive the following benefits:

  1. Application can be made directly to the Immigration department here in Costa Rica or application can be presented to the Costa Rican consul or embassy closest to applicants home.
  2. Application is pre-approved. No additional review or approval required from MINAE (El Ministerio del Ambiente y Energia).
  3. Applicant receives all the rights that a natural born Costa Rican has except can not get politically involved.
  4. If the applicant(s) chooses to work they are not restricted to working in the field of their investment.
  5. Applicant is required to be in Costa Rica only 1 day a year. This 1 day facilitates the renewing of the individuals status.
  6. The time the investor spends in Costa Rica with his legal status is applied towards the time requirement’s in order to obtain a Costa Rican passport. (if desired).

ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF PERMANENT RESIDENT INVESTOR STATUS.

A. Investor receives 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of land registered in his or her name.

B. Investor receives full ownership of the valuable teak trees planted on his or her land.
(1,100 trees at time of planting)

C. Investor receives management contract ensuring the trees and property are maintained to or exceeding standards as outlined by the Costa Rican Forestry engineers.

D. Investor receives full value of the teak timber when harvested.

E. Investor receives right to participate in additional future cycles of replanting / harvesting.

PLUS
Costs incurred in the processing of the application with Immigration are not borne by the applicant. Legal fees, local documentation and official stamps are included in the investment amount.

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Exclusive listings

Let the seller beware!!! Do NOT EVERY list your property for sale with a Realtor under an exclusive listing. There is no MLS system in Costa Rica contrary to what your Realtor may try to tell you there is not and never has been. Some Realtors work together and combine their listing but that is the extent of it.

One of my clients leaving Costa Rica got totally screwed by a Real Estate Company that knew no one lists their properties as exclusive but yet locked them into a years contract so that he is the only one that can show their property. This limits the exposure to their property to only those that come to him for property and that is not a lot of people as he is not very well known in Costa Rica.

This is wrong wrong wrong and my client is suffering because of it. These people want to return to the states after being in Costa Rica for only a few years and everything that could go wrong is going wrong.

It is not right for a Realtor to take advantage of the ignorance of North Americans that are used to Exclusive listings thinking that they will be put on the MLS and their property will sell quickly.

This is a beautiful property up in the mountains with lots of land and surrounded by national forest. It is the perfect property for someone that is looking for peace and tranquility and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This family has done a lot of remodeling of the property bringing it up to US standard with all new GE Profile stainless appliances.

If you know anyone looking for a property like this email me and I will make arrangements for you to view their beautiful property.

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Windy Season

I recently read on the real costa rica a blog entry that expressed EXACTLY how myself and many others feel about the windy season.  This week I thought I was going to go mad with the screaming winds outside.

The windy season gets on my nerves. Anywhere in the Central Valley, from December to February, the wind blows hard, very hard. It’s as though the wind becomes this evil stepmother lurking around and making my life miserable.

I yell at the wind: just stop for a minute, will ya! Here in the Central Valley, it doesn’t stop – day or night. It blows, and it blows. The air is dry; pools are chilly. Step outside and watch hairstyles go frizzy.

Although the wind keeps it cooler than normal it gets old very fast.  It makes many homes sound like they are haunted with the whistling winds coming through the unsealed windows and doors.  Not to mention sleeping is rather difficult with constant noise throughout the night.

It has only been dry season for a couple of months and I am already looking forward to the rainy season so that this bloody wind will finally go!