Thursday, December 30, 2010

Visas - and I don't mean credit cards

I recently did a website for a pretty big company down here. It's ready but still not up, which is strange because they've paid for it, but that's Mexico. Often there are things going on that I don't understand.

To get this job, I had to be able to issue a factura. That's a government invoice. The man who hired me suggested I go to a company in town here who could help me out.

That company does this- they "hire" you. So on your FM3 visa (a temporary resident visa we pay about $300 a year for), it would say I worked for them. Then they take $50/month and 10% of your income. Well. I had no real choice so I went for that. It cost about $200 to have my visa adjusted, and another $100 for the services of the person who went into the government office to have that done.

Later I was told that this particular company had a history of maybe not exactly paying your taxes correctly, and you could possibly get in trouble with the government. So they suggested I should start a business. Talked to a lawyer about that, and that would cost in the neighborhood of $3000. OK, no go there.

Another contact said I didn't need to start a business, I just needed a tax ID. OK, cool! I went with her to the tax office and procured myself a tax ID. Now she needed to take my visa and take off the original company and put on my tax ID instead.

But as my FM3 visa was coming up for renewal, I asked her if it would be smarter to get an FM2 instead. Yes, she said. Because while you have to renew an FM3 every year indefinitely, if you live here full time you can procure an FM2 instead. While it is more expensive year-to-year, you only need to renew it four times and then you are a Mexican resident. (Not a citizen, a resident.) Then you no longer need a visa. Or at least that's the story I get now.

Here is the explanation from a site that corresponds with what I understand: "Essentially, the FM2 is like a green card, or resident alien visa. It entitles you to many of the rights of a Mexican citizen (except voting) and entitles you to work. (You may also work on an FM3 visa.) Officially, after five years of living in Mexico and successfully meeting the requirements of FM2 status (including restricted time out of Mexico), you may make a declaratoria de inmigrado.

Inmigrado status does not require you give up your native citizenship, but holders may freely work and remain in Mexico without annual renewals of immigration papers."

I'll give you a few moments to digest that. Here, look at this pretty picture while you do so:

OK, so $460 to get an FM2 visa with my tax ID on it. $150 to get my tax ID and factura forms.

Now I need to get an accountant. She costs 800 pesos a month. A peso=.08 of a dollar. So about $64. She explains the tax system to me.

I can get a factura (a government invoice) for everything I buy except food. Doesn't really matter if it's for the business or not. Gas, toys, lawn furniture (we have no lawn, but you get the picture), etc etc. I have to carry a card around with my name, address and tax ID on it, and I have to ask for a factura for everything.

Sometimes they say, "Yes, you can have a factura but then we need to add 11%". That's usually for large purchases. In that case I say, "no thanks".

OK, so I take my facturas in to the accountant, including the $1600 I made for the website. And after a month she says, OK now you have to pay income tax. 3700 pesos.

Now, from here on in, if I don't make any Mexican income (And I have to charge clients that 11% tax, so I can't just put my Canadian and American clients through this business), she will only charge me 200 pesos a month. That's a huge relief.

Also, I can continue to collect facturas, and that will take my taxes down over the year. I don't know if I will have to pay taxes again on that $1600, it remains to be seen. Or I may get money back, it's hard to say.

So, here is the arithmetic:

I got $1600 USD.

It cost me:
$300 -change FM3
$460- get FM2
$150 - tax ID and factura forms
$ 64- Oct with accountant
$ 64- Nov with accountant
$296 - taxes
$ 16 - Dec with accountant

I am hoping that my future business transactions here are a little more profitable.

Oh, by the way, ignore everything you read about what is required to obtain a visa here. Wait until you get down here, and find a reliable person to take you through the process.

Here's another pretty picture. It's what makes the above story much less stressful.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Car washes, Cameras and Beachcombing

My camera memory card got stolen, then my replacement was faulty, so I can only have 9 photos in memory at any one time at the moment. That means every photo's gotta count.

Here's a little story of a morality lesson. A man had come to my door a few times asking to clean my car. The first few times I said, "Sure!' and paid him 50 pesos. He needed to borrow a bucket and rags to clean it, and he had a friend with him. So the 50 pesos was split between them I guess.

There's a lot of that down here...poor people who do whatever they can to get by. And I guess you get a little..not callous, but calloused. A little hardened to their predicament, especially as they are so cheerful at all times.

Anyway, one day he came by as usual, and I was super stressed about something, working for 3 clients at a time, so when he asked if he could wash the car, I hesitated, then said, "Oh, no thanks, not today." And I started to shut the door.

He replied, "Do you have anything to eat? We're very hungry." And I thought, "What kind of monster am I??" I said, "yes, sorry, you can wash my car, one second."

I went and got his bucket, and when I got out there I realized that he travels with about 6 dogs, all of whom were hungry and thirsty. So I fed him and his friend, and watered and fed his dogs, and gave him 50 pesos for washing the car.

That's him on the right, his name is Melquisedec, a biblical name. His friend is Juan. Oh, the "No Sniveling" bumper sticker? That comes from a local bar, Dan won it at the Food Festival here.

Here are a couple of Melquisedec's dogs. The others didn't want to hold still.

So most weeks Melquisedec comes by, cleans my car, we chat, his dogs get fed and watered and if I have the time and makings, he and Juan get a sandwich and some fruit. This week I bought an extra bucket and I'll see if he wants to take it with him.

Of course there are charitable concerns down here we contribute to, etc, but this was a more personal story of life here.

Carl asked me to post this:
Some stuff I found washed up on the beach that I'm leaving out for the kids next door to find. Not the fishing float though, too convenient for throwing.


Last night Dan, Cheryl and I went out to a local restaurant, Casa del Capitan - they were having a great deal- 30% off meals!

The view:

On Boxing day our neighbor Andreas (or Jose, depending on who you're talking to) came over with a gift. He fancies himself an artist, and created this modern art piece on some cardboard. It will stay there for a while, although the paint is still wet!

It doesnt matter what way is up.

Here are a few more shots of the places on the beach. This place with the dome was an ambitious development. From the road there is a long brick driveway that comes in behind the domed place. On the left of the photo in the distance is some kind of accommodation. There's a pool and a restaurant, but the whole thing never opened.

On the same piece of property is this little place that I've always liked the look of. It might have been the owner's place, I'm not sure.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Can you believe we've been here 2 years and 4 months already? Old timers, that's us. We do love it here.

We have been able to walk the beach almost every day recently. The weather has been wonderful, 23-26 C, light breeze, and unlike other years the water is warm enough to wade in.

Cheryl likes it:

So do Shadow and Taz.

Here are some of the places we walk by when we go one direction along the beach. These mansions are deserted most months of the year. This one is pretty amazing, main house, then to the left a guest house, and see way in the back there? Another guest house.

The water comes up pretty high sometimes. 5 meter tides are common, as are strong winds.

This place is a bit less pretentious.

15 pounds of clams yields a small bowl of meat, all ready for clam linguine. You can't often find lemons and parsley down here. When I find them together, I tend to want to make this dish.

When we turn the other way along the beach, the houses peter out and once you get past Tessoro, the condo building pictured here, you are pretty much on deserted beach up to the estuary where there are lots of birds to be seen.

Dan, Cheryl's husband and our friend as well.

Some of the birds we see are better photographed by others. Hopefully they won't see these and sue me.
American Oystercatcher:

Turkey Vulture: We saw a LOT of these the other day when there was a dead sea lion on the beach. It's gone now, carted away.

Great Blue Heron -we see this often.

This is a snowy egret. We see either this or a greater egret, we really need some binoculars. We see this every few days as well.

Bye for now from Melody, Carl and Shadow!