28 February 2014
Category : Opinion
What is a tax, what is it good for and where does it go? Central questions that the “Strengthening of tax education programmes in Latin America" project, promoted by EUROsociAL and coordinated by the FIIAPP, is addressing in an effort to make taxes and tax administration understandable. Costa Rica is one of the Latin American countries that have signed on to the initiative.
The day Silvia Tomic decided to start her own business, she realized that she was going to have to undertake a long and costly administrative process, which, in addition, she did not fully understand. This entrepreneur, a journalist by training, saw in the Accounting and Tax Support Centre (NAF) at the University of Costa Rica a chance to get answers to her questions. “It struck me as very interesting that the university was offering this service to small businesses and individuals who are doing some kind of work but often do not know how to run a business”, she explains. After getting to know the service first-hand, Silvia has used it to manage her small real-estate business.
Lack of knowledge, distrust and fraudulent behaviours. According to the 2011 Latinobarómetro report, Costa Rican citizens have the impression that only half of the population is duly paying its taxes. This is because there is little civic awareness about paying taxes which, in turn, translates into a high rate of tax fraud and social acceptance of tax evasion. In this context, the idea of developing a project for tax education to promote active, socially committed citizenship that participates and is aware of the importance of the social aim of taxes and the benefits they bring to collective welfare was born. This project is being carried out by EUROsociAL.
“My main motivation is to be able to learn as a professional for my future and to help people who do not have a good idea of what is being done with our taxes”, explains Ignacio Santillán, a fourth-year student of Business Administration at the University of Costa Rica and NAF volunteer at this centre. The Accounting and Tax Support Centres have been operating since November 2013 and are one of the tools of this project which provide, free of charge, tax advice to low-income taxpayers and family businesses, the majority of which operate locally. Students like Ignacio, who provide their service as “community work”, are the engine of the NAFs.
In addition to the NAFs, this project has developed other tools to create awareness among children and youth about paying taxes and complying with tax obligations. For the youngest audiences, there is a space with tax education games, called “I pay tribute to my country”and, also since November 2013, the videogames “Public and private assets Memotest” and “We’re a team”, which make State tax resources fun. Older children have teachers trained in this subject thanks to the guide for secondary-school teachers.
Last year, Costa Rica declared Tax Education a policy of national public interest and included it in school curricula. In 2014, with the support of EUROsociAL, there are plans to expand the NAFs to other universities in the country and to strengthen educational systems at the primary, secondary and university level. This is clearly a project suitable for all audiences that makes taxes child’s play.
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