Costa Rica tax office closes 2 well-known restaurants

September 14, 2011

Costa Rica’s Tax Administration office closed dozens of businesses Wednesday morning for tax irregularities, including late payments and failure to report sales tax.

“About 50 businesses around the country will be closed today,” said San José Regional Director Flor Rodríguez.

Among the businesses closed are Soda Chelles (for sales tax violations) and La Criollita in downtown San José and Peppers Club in Zapote, in southeast San José. Calls made to both establishments on Wednesday were not immediately answered. Rodríguez said that on several occasions Chelles employees failed to present a bill to customers. The 24-hour restaurant is one of the oldest in the capital.

The businesses must remain closed for at least five business days, and can only reopen once in good standing with tax authorities. Soda Chelles and La Criollita have both been featured in travel guides like Fodor’s and Lonely Planet.

“On Friday, we will continue with the closures,” Rodríguez said. “We call business owners to alert them because the sanctions also include freezing their bank accounts.”

Francisco Villalobos, general director of Costa Rica’s Tax Administration, said inspectors would also visit random businesses to verify that customers receive receipts and that tax accounting practices are in order. 

The crackdown is part of the Finance Ministry’s play to reduce tax fraud and improve collection, considered crucial if Costa Rica’s central government is to reduce its burgeoning fiscal deficit. 

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