Confusion Still Reigns Over Zolitur
The future of tax benefits for Bay Islands businesses under the Zolitur (Zona Libre de Turismo) law remained in doubt during May as some former beneficiaries reportedly received waivers from the Ministry of Finance to import goods duty-free as before but none reported getting any tax-free items yet through customs.
Victor Moncada, communications director for Zolitur, said previous beneficiaries were getting duty waivers from the Finance Ministry but encountering problems with customs, because customs officials had not been given an updated exemption code.
“Right now it’s still being done under the table,” said Moncada. He said he hoped the issues with customs would be resolved in coming weeks.
“We just now have started resubmitting documentation,” said Charles George of Vegas Electric May 15. “It’s still kind of a convoluted process.”
Vegas used to import as much as $350,000 a year of electrical equipment under Zolitur, George said. The loss of those benefits drove the prices of those imported products up more than 25 percent, he said. The hike in the sales tax rate in January made the impact even greater.
Moncada said he hoped an executive decree might be issued in June that would clarify the future of Zolitur benefits for old as well as new beneficiaries. “It depends on what the political will of the government is,” he said.
Meanwhile, Butch Wade of the Bulk Gourmet said he could not afford to pay the $50 daily storage fees while his merchandise sat two to three weeks in customs waiting on Zolitur documentation. He said loss of Zolitur benefits meant an increase of 16 percent in the cost to his customers of imported food items and 70 percent for wine and liquor. But until someone he knows manages to get some duty-free items through customs under the new ad-hoc process, he would not even try it.
“We just can’t wait,” said Wade. “It ain’t good.”