MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE, OR IS THERE A BIG STORY THERE? I started reading a bit about the latest international scandal regarding Roberto Rincón, and I learned that: “Rincón, who amassed a fortune thanks to big contracts with Petroleum of Venezuela, attracted the attention of authorities shortly after Carvajal’s arrest in Aruba. Carvajal had been traveling in a private plane belonging to Rincón.” Which means that Rincón managed to operate under the radar, until the notorious El Pollo, Hugo Carvajal, a Venezuelan narco-general, decided to add diplomacy to his resume, and showed up here as the self-styled Venezuelan Ambassador, only to be arrested by the DEA. So Rincón benefited from big petroleum contracts obtained through his businesses, and in the process of securing these jobs  he allegedly bribed foreign government officials, committed wire fraud and indulged in money laundering. As soon as I read “indicted for bribes made to foreign government officials,” I became worried and you should be worried too. There was a lot of talk in the past months about PDVSA coming to Aruba, and quite a few local politicians were in favor of opening the refinery under that flag. Why? We don’t know, but that is exactly the scenario where so called foreign business people come in, and the local-yokels are so impressed with them, they buy into their story, accept a friendly gift or two in exchange for their vocal support of the project! Time will tell if I am right or wrong, I hope I am wrong, I hope none of our boys got dazzled and star-struck by the flashy, shady billionaire with a private plane, and gazillion companies in the US, Venezuela and Aruba.

MORE DRACONIAN TAX MEASURES. On December 14th, I swear I am not making it up, my tax accountant sent me a nicely composed letter about a new way of filing corporate income tax, CIT returns, due to the fact that Parliament adopted a decision at the beginning of December 2015 to immediately collect provisional amounts, on anything taxable, and not nailed to the floor. Yes, as the coffers are empty, they decided to be creative. So that’s how it now works: You file your financial statements and prepare your CIT returns like a good citizen, AND if you show profit, your bad, self-impose a provisional assessment, and pay it NOW. The new legislation which changed the long-standing method of CIT returns filing also stipulated a deadline. Are you sitting down? Please don’t fall off your chair laughing, but the deadline for filing every single CIT return on the island AND paying the self-assessed, self-imposed profit tax was December 30th, 2015 at the latest. If I were a tax accountant, I would be huddled under my desk, crying into a box of Kleenex, can you imaging, the pressure, the monumental stress, completing all financial statements, filing and paying, a whirlwind of activities, in less than a month, just because the Aruba tax inspector suffers from chronic backlog at the Tax Authorities, where they are now reviewing 2010 and 2011. So that’s the story, as the country is in dire need of cash, the authorities went for the fast fix, sticking their fingers again into the business community’s pockets, based on a Curacao model, copying that handbook from the neighboring island. In the past the tax inspector would usually impose an assessment at the end of a careful review, but due to the fact that he is backlogged and quagmired, he decided to burden the private sector with the self-assessment and the consequent cash transfer! PS. I just got off the phone with the relieved accountant, he says that gratefully, the Director of the Tax Authorities, agreed to extend the deadline by one month! Of course, I knew she would. They always jump the gun and announce unrealistic deadlines which no one can possibly meet, then they reconsider and rethink their thoughtless strategy, attempting to fix it with a band aid. Enjoy shopping, and cooking. More tomorrow.