The police in Placencia, Village delivered summonses to almost every sales tax agent in Placencia yesterday, including me.
Why? The Sales Tax Department is trying to collect interest on sales tax that was not paid on 14 October 2001 -- just 6 days after Hurricane Iris hit and we had no electricity, no water, no phones, no mail, no road -- heck, we didn't even have any place to live by 14 October!!!!
In my case, the court date is set for December 30 -- my busiest day of the year. And, the magnificent sum they want to collect from me is $7.32 BZD. (I was closed last September because I was visiting my family in the States, so my grand total for business last September was $61.64 BZD, with a total tax owed of $4.88 BZD.
I actually did pay this princely sum last year -- by 14 November 2001 which I considered very timely since on that date I still didn't have a place to live, no electricity, no water, no phone, etc., etc., etc. I have a receipt from the Sales Tax Department, plus my registered mail receipt.
On 11 October 2002, I received a Notice of Assessment from the Sales Tax Department for $7.32 BZ. On that same day, I mailed copies of my receipt as well as my sales tax return showing payment of the full amount owed to the Sales Tax Department. I have a copy of the letter as well as the registered mail receipt evidencing mailing.
The Notice of Assessment for the $7.32 BZ is signed by Beverly Castillo, Commissioner of Sales Tax. Yet, when I talked to her yesterday on the phone, she said that she couldn't be held responsible for everything that the Sales Tax Department did. After all, she is the Commissioner and the Commissioner can't know everything that goes on in the Commissioner's Department.
I am almost at the point of no-return with trying to do business in Belize. As of 1 December of this year, my very small company had paid over $3,000 BZ to BTL for phone and Internet service even though I was unable to have a phone installed in my office until November 2002 -- 13 months after Hurricane Iris hit. I've also already paid almost $5,000 in Sales Tax and another $3,000 in Business Tax. I've also paid out over $235,000 to local guides, hotels, restaurants and other local service providers as businesses expenses.
And now the Sales Tax Department wants me to go to Dangriga on the busiest day of the year to dispute a $7.32 bill for sales tax penalties that they claim were incurred because I couldn't manage to mail a check to them on 14 October 2001.
I'm really not sure that this is worth it anymore.
EDITORS NOTE: Placentia Village is 50 miles from Dangriga the location of the court, on back muddy roads, that can take hours to traverse. Government services do not exist in communities like Placentia. The cost of the government is way too high for rural folks, which are the majority producers in Belize. To pay a $7.32 bill in government court, will cost about $345 in lost labor and travel costs.