Saturday, February 01, 2014

for whom the tax tolls

Friday morning was my first direct brush with the Mexican taxman.

I am not talking about the sly 16% VAT that is woven into most purchases here.  Its charm lies in its subtlety -- the Anne Hathaway of taxes.

Yesterday's tax was a new one for me.  When I bought my car last April, the dealership purchased the 2013 registration.  And, as we know, the federal police informed me in mid-January that my registration had expired (stop -- in the name of ley).

Let me back up a bit here.  I come from a state where automobile registration renewal notices are mailed to the car owner well before the due date.  Just before I left Oregon, the system had been upgraded to allow completion of the whole process on line.

There are no notices in the Mexican system.  Mexico assumes its citizens are responsible enough to know when their payments are due.  (Yes.  I know.  The intertwined subtext of that sentence would take weeks to unravel.)

Living in Mexico has changed my attitude about time.  When my Oregon renewal noticed arrived, I was online renewing before the envelope paper cuts had stopped bleeding.  Here -- I tend to procrastinate.

I noticed on my current form that if I paid my registration by 31 January that there would be a small discount.  Last night while having dinner with Lou and Wynn, he told me had driven to
Cihuatlán earlier in the week to renew his registration.  I pulled out my documents, and realized Friday was the last day to get my discount.

Lou kindly pointed out where the office was.  Because it was the last discount day, I suspected the office would be packed.  Opening time was 9 AM.  So, off I went from Villa Obregon to be in line by 8:30 AM.

When I pulled up, there were about six people waiting at the door.  I drove around the corner, parked the car, and pulled out my Kindle to read while standing in line.

But the line had disappeared.  Surprise #1.  The office had opened a half hour early.  And I was inside at 8:33 AM.

Lou had warned me that there was no number waiting system.  I have experienced that before.  Everyone in the office knows in which order they arrived.  And no one pushes ahead. 

But that still put me as aircraft #7 in the holding pattern.  I was ready to settle in for the duration until I started paying attention.  Surprise #2.  Each person at the window was there for only a couple of minutes. 

Up until the young woman who was immediately in front of me.  She kept pulling out document after document, and the clerk printed out a responding document.  I lost count at 15.  She must have been registering a fleet.

Then, it was my turn.  I handed over my 2013 registration.  Lou had prepped me that the cost was just shy of $500 (Mx) -- $427 (Mx), a little over $37 (US) after the 15% discount and additional $40 (Mx) for the Red Cross.  When the clerk looked up, I handed him a 500 peso note. 

The printer spit out my document.  He gave it to me along with my change -- and I was done.  Total time at the window -- less than two minutes.

I was back in my car at 8:54 AM.  From my arrival to departure, I had invested less than one-half hour of my time.

People make fun of Mexican bureaucracy.  Not me. 

My experience yesterday and my experience with our local immigration office are proof enough that most Mexican government workers are more efficient than the governmental offices I have encountered north of the Rio Bravo -- Oregon DMV and the Salem Social Security office being two of the worst.

On the other hand, to keep my blood pressure under control, we will not discuss Mexican banks.

For another year, I am back on the road with legal documents.  That is, as soon as I can figure out how to get a valid emissions test.

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