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#144069 - 05/25/02 06:29 PM HELP!!! Need info.....  

Hi all,
Got a little problem here, and would appreciate any suggestions and/or info.
Butch, the husband, got his residency in January. We were told that he had a one-time exemption for personal items, up to $15k.
So we got stuff together, and shipped down a container. The container now sits in Belize City and he was told that there is NO SUCH EXEMPTION. I had asked around on this message board for referrals for a broker, and used one that actually was listed in Lan's book, who had several good references. Now we are told that he is the worst broker in Belize and we could be taxed up to $50k for our belongings. And you can't just change your broker... he is now the broker on record.
Any ideas, suggestions, information, etc would be greatly appreciated! Right now, we are kind of between a rock and hard place.

#144070 - 05/25/02 06:37 PM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 914
ckocian Offline
ckocian  Offline
You might start researching at

#144071 - 05/25/02 07:27 PM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
Yes, this is what happens when laws are superseded by "Minister's Discretion."
You need a LAWYER who is "connected" to the big shots. I can give you several names of lawyers but I can't necessarily tell you who has the right connections for this particular assignment. If Michael Ashcroft is not involved, Lois Young Barrow would probably be a good choice. Email me privately and I will look them up for you.
Just looking at the numbers demonsrates something is hinky above and beyond the failure to provide you with the promised exemption (which is not only promised it is written into the QRP Act, but Customs needs a well connected lawyer to tell them that):
You say that they have threatened to charge you $50K in taxes, when you are bringing in stuff that is worth $15K. Forgetting for a moment that you are entitled to the exemption: A $50K tax bill for $15K worth of goods would be around 315% duty. Now I know the govt. has been borrowing a lot..but the last I heard there were no duties in the amount of 320%!!!
What you describe has happened to many others. The rationale is that a lot of people will just pay it and not hire lawyers, if you do, they will back down. Of course you will have to pay the lawyer for his or her time, but so far I have dealt with Belizean lawyers a couple of times and their fees have been reasonable in relation to what they were able to accomplish.
One of the things they will try to do is over inflate the value of the items you are bringing so be sure to have documentation that supports the values you are claiming.
This kind of thing is why we made the sad decision to build our new home in Panama and not Belize. Our pockets are just not deep enough for all that picking!

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
#144072 - 05/25/02 07:47 PM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Sep 2000
Posts: 713
susangg Offline
susangg  Offline
For the specifics on the Qualified Persons Retirement law, go to: and in particular:

Qualified Retired Persons under the program can qualify for duty and tax exemptions not exceeding US $15,000 on new and used personal and household effects admitted as such by the Product Development Officer in charge of the program. A list of all items with corresponding values that will be imported must be submitted with the application. One year limit is granted for the importation of personal effects..."

Couldn't be clearer, right? But here's the problem: "admitted as such by the Product Development Officer in charge of the program."

See any CRITERIA for how that "product development officer" is to make his or her decision?

Now, you could start out by calling the Belize Tourist Booard and asking who the "product development officer" is and then contacting him or her and saying: "please call customs and tell them not to assess any duty." Maybe you will get lucky, so there's no harm in asking. But if you get anything but a "yes we will do it right away, I suggest you get an attorney, because that is the next step."

And if they say: "Why don't you just pay us now and we'll evaluate your claim for a refund" DON'T!!! You'll be shuffling off to Buffalo before you get your dough back and if you do get it back, it will have "shrunk." (Unless you are really desperate to get the stuff in..or you are being charged "holding fees," which is another way to screw you and force you to pay up when you don't owe....)

Susan Guberman-Garcia, Attorney at Law. Phone: 510-792-2639
Fax/Voicemail:: 510-405-2016 Email:
#144073 - 05/25/02 10:33 PM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 5,255
sweetjane Offline
sweetjane  Offline
(jane smirks)

vicki called me today and told me of this. i said 'you know who would JUMP on this? susangg. why don;t you email her?".

and here you are. i knew you'd have an answer!

#144074 - 05/26/02 07:29 AM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 2,624
bywarren Offline
bywarren  Offline
E-mail me at and let me know if you have regular residency or the residency under the retired persons act and the approximaite value of the goods you are importing and I will give you some ideas. Relax, it probably isn't as bad as you think.
I won't get back to you until this evening as I am going fishing today. Those of you who aren't, eat your heart out.

#144075 - 05/26/02 08:53 AM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  

Thanks for the information!
Totally stressing here... but I know it will all work out, somehow!!
Jane, you are a smart-a$$! Hope called me last night. I really wish she could join us next month! Maybe one day.......

#144076 - 05/26/02 11:29 AM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 139
kcbc Offline
kcbc  Offline
Susan before you jump the gun and go nuts over this lets try to get some facts.
There are two sets of rules here. One involves whether they qualified under the retirement plan for the exemption and the other usually involves the importation of items for Belizeans moving back home to Belize.
If they did not quailify for the retirement plan then they would have to see if they qualify under the Belizeans moving back home plan. Just because you get residency I don't believe that you would be allowed this exemption. As far as I know it is an effort to allow some of the older Belizeans an opportunity to bring back home some of their household items.

So first of all this couple needs to determine if either of these exemptions apply to them. If not then the next step would be to hire a lawyer and proceed from there.
If it was me and I was stuck in this quandry I might try to see who I know in Belize who is influential and able to intercede on my behalf for me in this predicament.

If your stuff is at the port in Belize City, yes you are being charged storage fees. Usually you get 5-7 working days to unload after that naturally charges apply. Ports are generally not viewed as storage depots.

I have had several friends move to Belize and bring in there household goods and not use any exemption or retirement plan. There are things that you have to be aware of though. Most items have to be used and you must provide receipts or some form of pricing to the customs department. I am not to keen on this approach myself and after you factor in the shipping cost, the duty, the transportation to your site, and the pain and suffering involved in doing this, find it easier just to bite the bullet and buy the stuff in Belize. (This is why ever business in Belize agrees to hire xxx number of Belizean employees in return for an exemption)

So lets see if we can get some more of the facts presented to us. Ibanole if bywarren has offered to help you (and you appear to need help) then give him a shout and see what he can do.
I myself have had several lawyers in Belize so I can tell you who not to use. (LOL) And I also tried dealing with a customs broker once and yup he was highly recommended by everyone. He was worthless.

With it being Sunday nothing will be able to get accomplished till Monday.
But it is not a conspiracy against you its just that you screwed up and should have done some more research before sending your stuff down. Its not the end of the world and I am sure that your not the first person that this has happened to.

You can always have your stuff shipped back home if you decided that the price is out of line.

#144077 - 05/26/02 04:42 PM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Dec 2000
Posts: 957
lovey and thurston Offline
lovey and thurston  Offline
Before you incur the expense of an attorney, you might call Gina Escalante at the Tourisim Bureau. She is very helpful and might have some insight for you on how to proceed. Be sure to ask her if you have all the proper papers for documentation of your goods. They are pretty strict about that.

R.B. Mernitz
#144078 - 05/27/02 12:43 PM Re: HELP!!! Need info.....  
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 5,255
sweetjane Offline
sweetjane  Offline
you all have been so helpful. if vicki hasn't seen it yet, she will be very appreciative.

fingers still crosses for you honey. you have TWO WEEKS to get those pool toys to the resort for me...and give me a holler if you need some clothes!!!

please keep me posted!

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