A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Paying Property Taxes In Ecuador....what fun!

It was recently just over a year since we Yazells had returned to Ecuador and took up permanent residency.   Guess what that meant?   It was time for us to become bona fide, official taxpayers.  I had heard that among the benefits of being "tercera edad" was that I would be entitled to a discount on property taxes.    Being here a year and having become more experienced at dealing with bureaucracy and things Ecuadorian, I was fairly certain I would not receive such a benefit by simply asking for it.  Surely, there had to be a  bureaucratic process complete with forms to fill out, copies to be made (any government process in Ecuador requires you kill at least a couple of trees with the paperwork that's needed) and, most certainly lines to wait in and some "problemas" to overcome.

 When you know you're to be going through this kind of these process,  you eventually learn to do at least two things:

1) You gather together every bit of documentation and paperwork that might in any way conceivably relate to the whole process and then add a few others that just simply have to do with being a gringo in Ecuador and organize a traveling file to take with you!

 2)  You recruit a good guide and interpreter to help you through the process!

In our case, the help we recruited was Priscilla Idrovo, sister and sister-in-law to our two Ecuadorian attorneys.  Patricia is fully bilingual and in addition to helping at the law firm, she works as a "facilitator" for gringos needing special assistance and translation.  We had utilized her before in such tasks as opening bank accounts, in getting registered as "tercera edad" with SRI (the Ecuadorian equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service) and in handling some special needs with our Ecuadorian insurance company.   In these matters and a couple of others she has proven to be a very valuable asset.

Property taxes are paid in municipality offices located near the new cathedral across from Parque Calderon.  So, armed with all our gathered documentation, we met Priscilla downtown at 9:00am and marched the few short blocks to the office and got a waiting number, in our case: #89.  Several windows were in operation so the wait wasn't really exorbitant,...only about 20 minutes.  At first, our clerk couldn't find our property in the computer system (good thing, we bought the entire deed and our receipt showing that the property transfer had been registered with the city last year!)  With the paperwork we showed her she found our property in the system.  She was preparing to print out a tax bill when we inquired about the "descuento para tercera edad".   Examining my cedula (Ecuadorian resident ID), she said that while I certainly was eligible for tercera edad, it had to be approved and entered into the system prior to the tax bill being paid.  That process, of course, took place in an entirely different city department.   We were politely directed to an office two doors down the street and told to return when we were approved and appropriately entered.

Down the street we went, Suzanne and I lugging our file of goodies.  With Priscilla as guide, into the directed office we went.  No numbers here, just three different, however, was for an information desk....perhaps a good place to start.  The info desk directed us to the second line (I probably would have just entered the first one had I been there on my own!)   After being in line for a length of time, we were informed there was, of course,  an application form to be filled out.  (You will always stand in line to speak to somebody to learn you have to fill out an application form in Ecuador.  Sometimes you will even have to get into another line line to actually get that form...Don't ever expect to just find a kiosk that explains what forms you need and then find a supply of those forms readily available)  Copies of both our cedulas had to be attached to the application as well as a copy of the previous year's paid tax (even though paid by the previous owner), a copy of the registration of transfer with the city and a complete copy of our deed.

(Now you see why we brought the fat file of documents, don't you?)

 For those of you inexperienced with these type of situations, everything you apply for or do in Ecudador requires some sort of copying, usually in copious amounts, but there is NEVER a copying machine available at the office that requires said copies.  There is, however, always, a commercial copying facility somewhere nearby.

After a second trip up to our clerk to clarify what was being asked for on the form, off down the street trudges our entourage to procure the required copies.  This, of course, necessitates another wait in line. (Said copy center is within two blocks of the aforementioned municipal offices, three banks, the provincial offices for Azuay, the courthouse, and at least ten lawyer, real estate and notary offices.  Needless to say, there's a WHOLE LOT of copying going on here everyday!)  The one upside is that B&W copies are a mere 3 cents each...we were in and out for less than a buck!

Back to our helpful clerk who carefully examines all the stuff we had copied and our application. He proclaims we have everything in order (as close as you get to receiving a bureaucratic Atta Boy!).  Going back into the computer to register our application, he pauses and announces to us that we, however still have one "problema" (you knew this was coming...didn't you?).  You see, we purchased our house shortly after our return to Ecuador and our identity as the buyers was confirmed and entered on all our paperwork with copies of our passports and all our property identification was tied to our passport numbers. (Apparently, this was why our first clerk could not initially find our property.  She was utilizing the cedula number which we had obtained a few weeks AFTER we had bought our house. She finally utilized the deed registration number to find us in the computer.)

What to do?   Why, of course, we had to make an application to change our property identification from our passport numbers to our cedula numbers.   But, of course, that can't be done at this department. "Por favor", it is necessary to go down the street to yet another municipal office and speak with the appropriate official in charge of handling the process of changing those numbers. Off we go, yet again!  There was an information desk on the first floor.  That's a good place to start (especially when you have a fluent speaker of Spanish with you to explain EXACTLY what you need to accomplish!)  Up to the second floor and Huzzah!, within 15 minutes, we were actually headed back to office number two, confident our numbers were now changed.

At office number two, our clerk (we've almost become well acquainted by now!) confirms , yes id numbers have changed. He goes about doing his initialing, stamping and entering and announces we have now been approved for our senior citizen discount.  We can now return to office number one and proceed with the process of actually paying our taxes.

It's been a while so the turn numbers were now in the triple digits but our former clerk recognizes us and waves us back to her window.  A couple minutes of computer searching and then a big smile on her face tells me it is now time to dig deep and start pulling out my wallet.  I was finally about to pay my first property taxes in Ecuador!

Suzanne remarked later, that as our lady announced what we owed in taxes, my jaw dropped so low she thought I was going to fracture my jaw on the marble counter at the cashier's window.  "Are you kidding me?" I asked in perfect English...I was assured through Priscilla's translation, that the amount I heard, was, indeed,  my correct, fully due and payable property tax bill for the year.

As I handed across a twenty dollar bill and waited for my printed receipt (as well as my change!!!), I marveled at the morning's process we had gone through.  A year ago, the entire affair would have been quite stressful for the two of us. This year, we were better prepared and knew to expect the unexpected. We had resourceful help and we were certainly more "tranquillo" and patient about the entire process.  As she handed me my receipt (and my change...did you get that, folks? - I gave her a twenty to pay my property taxes and I GOT change!!!)  The wonderful lady at window number 8 assured me it would be easier next year... just bring this year's receipt and my cedula...leave all the document files at home.   Have a nice day and she hoped to see me again next year.

So there you have it... the fun story of paying our first property taxes in Ecuador.  We're now Ecuadorian taxpayers and we're happy to be continuing our marvelous journey: "juntos en el camino de la vida"!


  1. Don't you just love this place !!!!! Steve South of Zero

  2. Great post, going to mention it in my next blog post. Just read the new book on Life in Cuenca and this really accentuated what they were saying about patience. Thanks!