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You have 10 days left to pay your annual Corporation Tax without incuring a late fine or interest.

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The Surfside Property Owners Association has just recently graded our roadways.

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Although we have been waiting for several years, we finally had our roads graded by the Ministry (MOPT) and the local roadways are back to normal. The roads were in horrid condition for walking or riding a bicycle, especially at night. Loose rocks, potholes, mud and waterfilled pits of unknown depths were the norm on many streets, some worse than others. Of course it was after the rains ceased that MOPT decided to come in and grade the roads. They did a great job and did their best to try to clear ditches and culverts as well. Some of the dirt used to fillm in the potholes and gulleys came from clogged ditches along the side of the roadways. This dirt was then spread out with a grader. Unfortunately, in completing this endevour prior to the Papagayo season, and after the rains had ceased, we now find the whole community engulfed in a dust cloud that never ends. The winds pick up the loose dirt, which is really a fine powder, and this powder finds its way into every household through even the finest screened windows. For those without AC it has become unbearable having to keep windows open for air circulation, while facing a never ending battle against the intruding dust. The dust is so fine it is causing breathing problems for many locals, especially those who walk to work or to the store. It seems almost every second person has a cough or sinus condition during the past few weeks since the road work was completed. Adding to the problem are the few lunatic drivers who find it mandatory to drive as fast as possible on local roads, whether they be paved or not. One only needs to glance out the rearview mirror to see the dust cloud in their wake. A dust cloud that makes its way into every home along the road, covers every plant in the garden and seems to seek out that newly washed car, golf cart or bike sitting in neighborhood driveways. If you wash it then you can be guaranteed you will see an increase in traffic in front of your home in the immediate hours that follow. ATV tours are especially good at stirring up the dust, no matter how fast they drive, simply due to the number of wide uncovered tires that travel the road in a line snaking their way to the back of Surfside on their way to the Congo Trail. It's beyond me as to why this is an enjoyable activity unless you are in the front of the line, but hey, it's a business and a part of life in a tourist town. Several homeowners have taken it upon themselves to install makeshift speed bumps on public roads in an attempt to get drivers to slow down, both as a deterrent to unnecessary speed and to reduce the dust clouds. People who are walking to the beach or to the store are now more often than not wearing dust masks or handkerchiefs covering their faces so they can breathe. Molasses is a prevalent smell as more homeowners try to mitigate the dust and preserve the much needed water supplies. While an effective solution once it dries, its a horror for bicycles and sandals when freshly sprayed. Fortunately it dries quickly and is only applied once or twice a season. Since the roadways are under the public domain there is little we can do to reduce traffic in our communities, but it would be nice to see local residents show some concern for their neighbors by slowing down, especially on the dirt roads. There is no need to drive at 50 km just to get to the 911 speedway. Better yet, get out and walk or bike to the store, at least once a week so you can experience what many others have to do several times a day. Walk a mile in someone else's shoes and maybe you will appreciate how bad the dust problem is for them and for us all.      
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The 360 Splendor del Pacifico, aka 360 Flamingo, is a marvel overlooking both beautiful Flamingo Beach and the Potrero Bay, home of the new Marina Flamingo Project.

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Max Arata representing the Marina Flamingo Development Group announced the beginning of prep work for the new Marina.

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 The project known as 360 is located at the top of the prestigious North Ridge.

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Two North American tourists were rescued this past Thursday in front of Flamingo beach in Bahía Potrero, Guanacaste, by officers of the National Coast Guard Service (SNG).

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After a delay of several weeks car owners can now purchase their 2019 Marchamo.

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Good news for Canadians looking to get to Costa Rica.

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A new Aman luxury resort is planned to open just around the point from the Westin Conchal overlooking a secluded stretch of beach and the vastness of the open Pacific.

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A California jury has ordered Monsanto to pay over $2 billion in damages, over twice the amount they were requesting.

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The government of Costa Rica has confirmed that the existing sales tax system will be replaced by a Value Added Tax (VAT) system, coming into effect on July 1st, 2019. The tax will apply to the majority of goods and services.

The standard rate of VAT will be 13% whilst reduced rates of 6%, 4%, 2%, and 1% will also apply to certain items.

Most restaurants already charge 13% Sales Tax and a 10% service charge, adding 23% to the overall tab. Considering the restaurant staff rely on tips as the major part of their earnings, diners should be adding another 10% to that final bill, provided the service is good.

The current 13% sales tax is also levied on imports and domestic sales of all goods. There are exemptions for basic foodstuffs, medicines and other essentials. Services are currently exempt.

As of July 1st, 2019 that all changes. The country needs to widen its tax base, to cover ever increasing social programs and basic services, which means subjecting services to the new VAT.

Although the full 13% on services may be phased in over a 4-year period, one should expect the majority of the tax increases to applied quickly. Services now accounts for almost half of the country’s economy. This includes the professional services of doctors, veterinarians, accountants, attorneys, engineers, etc and even rents over $400 per month.

The tourism sector will also be subject to the new taxes, but phased in over 4 years. The implementation of VAT will be done gradually, from 0% in the first year, 4% in the second year, 8% in the third year and 13% from the fourth year. The business needs to be registered with ICT to qualify for the graduated rate on services, otherwise they need to charge the full 13% the first year.

While certain basic food products are initially exempt, such as breads and tortillas, rice, flour, milk, meat, eggs, sausages, canned tuna, fruits, vegetables, beverages, personal hygiene items, school goods and other food products, they will be subject to a 1% VAT as of July 1st 2020.

Accountants will be working overtime to keep up with the added paperwork involved in keeping their client accounts up to date. If you charge the tax to your customers, you can claim a rebate on the tax you paid, provided you have a record of every purchase and the receipts are in the legal business name. And of course some charges are nonrecoverable, if one considers that even your lawyer and accountant will now charge the VAT, estimated to be 6%.

The concept of turning every business owner into a tax collector is not a new one. VAT charges exist in many countries and ideally apply to luxury items and not essentials like food, water, electricity and public transportation. In most countries the VAT charges end up affecting everyone, no matter their income level. In Canada the VAT is currently 5% whereas in Brazil it is 17% and Mexico it is 16% (Reference).

Considering the various rates involved in this new system, one should expect a complicated process that will result in the government having to hire more staff to manage the collections and processing, reducing the winfall expected from the taxes collected. Payments and associated paperwork are due monthly.

It is highly recommended that if you own a business in Costa Rica or you rent a property, you should seek out a reputable accountant, or legal office, preferably one who knows your business sector and how the new tax laws will be applied.

The full Decree with lists of products and services can be downloaded here.

The agreement signed between the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae), the Island Conservation organization and the Asociación Costa Rica por Siempre (ACRXS or Costa Rica Association Forever) will also promote management activities, scientific research, planning and communication.

"Through this agreement we are following up on a series of efforts that we have been implementing since the beginning of this administration in terms of security and surveillance. With these actions we want to continue to materialize efforts for the protection and environmental conservation in an integral way. Cocos Island is a unique treasure in the world and we have to protect it permanently, "said the Minister of Environment and Energy.

The island is a unique and exceptional territory due to its geographical location, its origin and geological history and the oceanographic and climatic conditions it supports. It is also part of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor (CMAR), a strategic territory for marine and climatic research.

It has healthy and resilient coral reefs and is the only oceanic island in the eastern Pacific that features humid tropical forest. In addition, it is a site of convergence of migratory marine species, which reach its waters to feed and reproduce, which makes it a key site for the maintenance and conservation of marine resource reserves in the region.

With this agreement, the organizations involved will also support the search for funding sources for the restoration projects, as well as the identification of allied organizations that can provide technical assistance in the implementation phase. For example, initially the ACRXS will provide $20,000 to develop a communication strategy to inform the population and create a fundraising strategy.

This tripartite collaboration will help improve the ecological integrity of Cocos Island and allow the country to learn about the lessons learned and best practices that have been applied elsewhere, as Island Conservation has great experience in the restoration of ecological islands, basing their actions on solid scientific information, which has enabled it to restore 63 islands in both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, positively impacting 1173 populations of 468 species and subspecies.

"For island Conservation this is a unique opportunity to support the management and conservation of Cocos Island and to collaborate with the government of Costa Rica, because of what the island represents as a natural heritage of humanity and to safeguard its biodiversity. We are confident that by combining efforts between Minae and both NGOs, the complete restoration of the island can be successfully completed, said Eliécer Cruz, South America manager for Island Conservation.

Cocos Island has 270 species of fish and of convergence of pelagic (open ocean) species, among them four species of turtles and fourteen of sharks.  In addition, there are 149 species of birds and there are no native terrestrial mammals; The five species that inhabit it, such as the black Rat, the white-tailed deer and the pig, were introduced and therefore strongly threaten the present biodiversity.

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