Working out of their temporary office at the Chamber of Commerce building in Coxen Hole, the team of 12 DEI (Honduran equivalent to IRS) officials plan for days inspections and business closures. “This year it will be a bigger effort. We plan to reach 95% of all businesses,” said Hernandez.
DEI officials set into a routine of visiting around 40 businesses a day, and in the first 15 days of work closed down 25 businesses for irregularities and non payment of taxes. “We found many inconsistencies as far as applying the ZOLITUR Law,” said Nelson Hernandez. The DEI expected to stay for around 20 days and eventually also visit Utila and Guanaja. According to Hernandez until the end on March DEI has audited 1,800 Roatan businesses and collected Lps. 41 million in back taxes, interest and fees, with many more payment scheduled to be coming in months to come.
Some DEI business closures attracted more attention than others. The cruise ship tourists looked in confusion as Finance Ministry officials closed down two Diamonds International stores in both of the Cruise ship terminals on the island.
Diamond International representatives declined to comment on the matter to Bay Islands Voice, they did post a note to potential cruise ship customers that couldn’t shop at the store. The not read: “Due to unforeseen circumstances we have to close our doors,” and suggested that the cruise shippers visit the Diamonds International store in Cozumel, then next day. According to Hernandez the three stores operated by Diamonds International owed around Lps. 41 million and are working out a payment plan with the DEI.
This is not the first time that Diamonds International was audited by DEI, but the first time it was forced to close down. DEI officials glued yellow meter long stickers with DEI logo and phrase “Yo infringi la ley” or “I broke the law” on all the doors of the closed business. If the business does not settle the back taxes and fine within the five days, they will be closed for a 30 day period.
In West End, Coconut Tree grocery store was closed for five days due to issue of not charging 12% not the required 15% taxes on cigarettes. Other businesses have not been collecting the additional 4% tourist tax.
According to DEI several Roatan businesses: amongst them Infinity Bay and Barefoot Cay ended up paying around tens of thousands of dollars for salary income tax for employees earning over Lps. 9,500. While the businesses can try to eventually recoup the money from employees salaries, they will likely end up forking up the unpaid income tax for employees who no longer work with the company. [/private]