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Series on U.S. foreign asset reporting starts today



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Taxing Times 1

Snowbirds, ex-pats may need to use new IRS form

(Ed. Note: This series is a combined effort by Mary and Bernie Strojny who first suggested it and Martin Wohnlich who researched government documents with the aid of a CPA and compiled it in association with the Pelican Free Press. Since tax rules are always open to change, this series should be considered only as a basic familiarization and introduction to new asset reporting rules that affect U.S. taxpayers with assets abroad).
     “Every reader of the Pelican Free Press who has to file a U.S. tax return needs to become familiar with the new regulations,” notes U.S. businessman Martin Wohnlich. The regulations he refers to are embodied in a new act in effect with this filing period called the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) whose acronym is just one tiny “t” short of FATCAT.
And anyone thinking of ignoring the regulation should be informed that penalties for simply not reporting foreign assets covered by the new rules are heavy burden.
To begin: Why FATCA?

There are over one million Americans living abroad. Also there are a big number of immigrants to the U.S. during the last decades who are either resident through a “green card” or became dual citizen,” Wohnlich notes.
“Until a few years ago, most had no clue about the reporting requirements as a U.S. citizen or resident. A turning point came when UBS (international bank) was charged with helping Americans evade the IRS.
“At that point, the IRS started a strong enforcement program and launched its first voluntary disclosure programs aimed at the tax evaders to come clean and disclose their unreported offshore accounts.”
Let’s begin with the good news. Real estate located in a foreign country is NOTconsidered a foreign financial asset but if owned through a trust, should be reported to be on the safe side.
    Then what specifically is reportable? There are two types of foreign financial assets:  1) foreign financial accounts and  2) what the IRS calls “other foreign financial assets.”
foreign financial account is any depository, custodial or securities account (bank account, savings account, mutual funds etc. maintained by a foreign financial institution, including institutions organized under the laws of a U.S. possession.

Other foreign financial assets include any of the following that are held for investment and not held in an account maintained by a financial institution: – Stock or securities issued by someone other than a U.S. person;  – Any interest in a foreign entity, including foreign pension plans, trusts, estates, corporations, partnerships, options and other derivative instruments, debt instruments, interest rate and other swaps or similar agreements; – Any financial instrument or contract that has an issuer or counterparty that is other than a U.S. person.
If you are required to file Form 8938 but do not file a complete and correct form by the due date of your federal tax return, you may be subject to a penalty of $ 10,000. Continuing failure to file Form 8938 could result in additional penalties up to $ 50,000. Further, underpayments of tax attributable to non-disclosed foreign assets will be subject to an additional substantial understatement penalty of 40 percent.To be continued…

Speaker to outline Mexico property law, taxes

Anybody who owns property here may want to attend the next talk in PA’s informal series, this time featuring a notario publico, the lawyers who call the shots on housing law and processes.
Lic. David Martinez Zetina, Notaria Publica No. 34, from Playa de Carmen, will be at the Colonos Meeting Room at 10 a.m. Saturdy<March 17. The lectura is free and open to the public.
This program is part of a continuing series of informational meetings designed to help educate English speaking residents about the laws and customs of Mexico. Sr. Martinez will explain the services and duties provided by notario’s in Mexico and how they differ from those of other attorneys. Subjects to be covered at this meeting will include:
* What are the duties and responsibilities of a Notaria Publica?
* Can foreigner’s own property in Mexico?
* What restrictions do foreigners have when they own property in Mexico?
* For tax purposes, what determines the value of your property at the time of sale?
* What determines the amount you pay for capital gains at the time of sale?
* Is it true that proof of long time residency reduces the amount of capital gains tax that you pay?
* What other fees and taxes are involved with the purchase or sale of property in Mexico?
*Is there any difference in fees and taxes if a property purchase (or sale) is done using Pesos instead of U.S. Dollars?
Resident John Schandke will emcee the event.

Red Cross significantly different in Mexico

It is a core component
of health care system

Posted 02/21/12 by Juanito

Ask someone to describe the American or Canadian Red Cross and they would likely say something like… “They’re part of a worldwide organization that helps people in time of emergency.” While that is a true statement, it doesn’t even come close to describing the significance of the Red Cross in Mexico, where it is at the core of an entire country’s health system.
In addition to responding to disasters, Cruz Roja Mexicana (Mexican Red Cross) provides Emergency Medical Services, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to the entire nation. By Mexican law, it is the only organization, outside of big cities, authorized to render first aid to anyone injured in an auto accident or during the commission of a crime.
Today, both the Mexican Red Cross and the Mexican National Health Service, IMSS, maintain hospitals in all major cities. Larger cities also have Municipal Hospitals. However, the IMSS hospitals serve only those who can pay a fee or work for companies who provide health insurance.

Those who cannot afford the premiums, or are not covered by their employer, must rely on a Red Cross Clinic or Municipal Hospital to provide free care. By and large, emergency health care in big cities is good, but such is not the case in smaller towns and villages where people must rely on the Red Cross for health care. If their need is beyond what the Red Cross can provide, they are transported to a larger hospital that provides free service.
The “Cruz de Roja Mexicana” clinic closest to Puerto Aventuras is located on the corner of Benito Juarez and Avenue 25 North, in Playa del Carmen. From this location, visitor’s can receive emergency treatment, consult a doctor, have a tooth pulled, and have x-rays taken. Medicines are dispensed from a pharmacy housed within the same building. A sign posted on the wall lists suggested fees for a multitude of services. For example, it costs 70 pesos to consult a doctor… 50 pesos for a tooth extraction… and x-rays cost 450 pesos. These fees are considered donations and seldom cover the actual costs. Those without the ability to pay receive free care. These rates are at the opposite end of the cost spectrum from “Hospiten Riviera Maya”, although Hospiten reportedly offers significantly reduced rates to patients with proof of residency, corroboration of which will make another story.
Fortunately, Cruz Roja de Mexicana has a legion of hard working volunteer’s to keep it all working.
Damas de Cruz Roja (Ladies of the Red Cross), are mostly Mexican ladies whose job it is to promote the services provided by the Mexican Red Cross and work closely with the doctors and staff responsible for dispensing the care. These same ladies are also responsible for the massive fund raising efforts it takes to sustain the operation on a nationwide basis, not an easy task.
Youth Volunteers are the backbone of the operation. They provide a young and eager workforce and can easily be spotted when wearing one of the brightly colored T-Shirts denoting them as “Friends of the Red Cross”. It is these student volunteers that you often see standing in the middle of a busy intersection, holding a little white box, asking for your donation. Often, prizes are awarded to those who collect over a certain amount. I don’t know about you, but now that I understand the significance of the Red Cross in Mexico, I plan to be much more generous with my giving in the future.
I look at it this way… the ambulance from Cruz Roja Mexicana is often the first to respond to an accident… and the life they help save could be mine.

Another rhythmic concert coming March 10

Proceeds will help
library to expand

     When it rains, it pours, goes the saying. After a two month drought of concerts, we have two practically in a row, the booming Salsa event we witnessed last Saturday night and the fullMariachi and Flamenco ensemble we will hop and jump to beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday,March 10, at the Cultural Center on Bahia Akumal.

That event is for the benefit of PA’s all-volunteer library at the Colegio Puerto Aventuras that has more than 11,000 books in Spanish and English – from academic texts to dime novel thrillers and captivating classics – and still growing to the point that more space is needed. Proceeds of the concert will help enable the library  to expand space and add bookshelves.
Mexico Canta! ¡Espana Baila! (Mexico Sings, Spain Dances) is a blend of Mariachi music and Spanish Flamenco dance. Tickets are 60 pesos and available at the Colonos Office, Colegio Puerto Aventuras, Bamboo and Cafe Olé!, as well as from the volunteer librarians.
PA snowbirds and residents who use the library – for a mere $10 lifetime membership – could help by talking up the concert, buying a ticket or two, and showing up for a good time.
Last Saturday’s event featuring a 9-piece Salsa attack upon the ears infused so many in the audience with dance fever that the musicians and dancers just about melded into one flexuous body on the “stage,” morphing a “concert” into a “block party” of undulating, perspiring music lovers shaking the blahs from their being.
But while many dancers gyrated until the last note, the decibel level of the music was too much for others who, unusual for these concerts, began trickling out of the audience during the break at 8 p.m., some complaining that the underlying boom of the electric bass was hurting their ears. It wasn’t the musicians. It was the sound system. Others said they simply didn’t have the heart for two hours of salsa. Like the salsa that passes our taste buds, the salsa that mobs our ears or moves on without a few tempo changes is not for everybody, particularly non-dancers, and perhaps promoters should take note to monitor such things while concerts are in progress.
However, the enthusiasm of the dancers prompted by the beat of salsa outweighed the mild criticism of the event and once again underscored the truism that you can’t please everybody all the time. Onward and forward to the next concert!.

(For those of you who have not yet visited, the library has the largest bilingual collection in the Riviera Maya with over 11,000 books in English and Spanish.  All residents and visitors are welcome.  Lifetime memberships cost just $100 pesos or $10 dollars.  Stop by Monday through Friday from 2:30pm to 4:30pm and join up.)


Phrase a week … By Gloria Contreras, state certified interpreter
Another accident and another plea to drive carefull, or as they say in Spanish “Por favor, maneja con cuidado.”
(Ms. Contreras teaches Spanish classes from 3 to 4 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Tiramisu Restaurant and all are welcomed to attend. The fee is $150 pesos. Please call her first to make arrangements at 984-108-3517)

Coming events…

Akumal- Something funny going on here! It’s the first annual Akumal Comedy Festival April 19-21 with more than a dozen comedians on hand. And it’s FREE…No joke!


What’s Playing…

See for yourself what’s showing at the local movie houses in Playa del Carmen at the links below.


Park Committee Classes: Drop by to sign up

Cooking:10 a.m. Mondays at Latitude 20 Restaurant
Fitness at the Park: 8:15 A.M.: Tai Chi Tuesdays, Yoga Wednesdays and Fridays
Art: 9 to noon Wednesdays and Sculpture on Thursdays
French: 9:30 to 11 a.m. Thursdays
Kids’ Club: Art 10-11 a.m. Saturdays; French, 4-5 p.m. Mondays; Story hour 3 p.m. Fridays

Briefly Noted…

Compiled from staff, contributors and media reports

COCAINE DISCOVERY – A young jogger along Playa del Carmen’s beach found a white package containing 36 individual 1-kilo packs of cocaine and called authorities who said it is

the second time in recent months that packages of the drug have washed ashore…FISH TALE – Claudia Jensen of Canada was lounging at the Chac Hal Al pool the other day when a fish was dropped by a bird and slammed down right next to her chair as someone shouted warnings to her. Her unsuspecting husband, Ken, sliced open his thumb when he picked up the fish to dispose of it. It was a smiling surgeonfish (blue tang) so-called because of its razor-sharp spine called a “scalpel.”…ANOTHER ACCIDENT,this time on the northbound leg of the service or access road adjacent to 307,  just outside the main gate. A pickup truck and car collided and went off into the brush near the fence. Thankfully nobody was walking there to Chedraui’s. We said it last week and we say it again this week. We love you. Please drive carefully…WHILE AVENTURANS wonder what’s to become of the serious erosion of the Omni-area beach, the  Federal Electricity Commission says it is ready to pour millions of dollars into sand reclamation at Cancun and Playa del Carmen beaches to restore the Riviera Maya’s main  tourist attraction…IF YOU’RE TRAVELING to the Chetumal area , be forewarned that health officials are warning that swimming in the Rio Hondo cold cause sickness because of pollutants from Guatemala, Belize, Campeche and local territory…SPRING BREAK helping load the hotels as a restaurant group pleads for safer roadways for the coming Easter Holiday expectation that could reach overcrowding…

END THIS POST Sleeping half-moon

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