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A $7,000 Fine for a Typo Made By a Mexican Bureaucrat?

A representative of Hacienda, the Mexican IRS, has told 75-year-old American John Hards of the Nuevo Vallarta-based Pelican that he is to be fined 84,000 pesos — a little under $7,000 — for a typo in his Temporary Import Permit. Hacienda told Hards, who lives off Social Security, that he could get a 20% "discount" if he pays within 20 days. Hards was given a 55-page document, in Spanish, explaining the fine. That AGACE would spend so much time and effort on an easily explained typo that wasn’t of Hard’s doing defies understanding.

Hards had previously told Latitude that he ran afoul of AGACE, a subagency of Hacienda, in late November over a typo on his TIP. "I got my 10-year permit at Salina Cruz in 2009 when returning from a granddaughter’s surfing trip south. As I was getting a 10-year permit in 2009, it obviously should have had a "valid until" date of 2019. Unfortunately, somebody at Banjercito, the military bank that collects fees for TIPs, mistakenly wrote in ‘2010’ instead of ‘2019’ in the "valid until" space. 2010 was the date my then-tourist visa expired, which has nothing to do with a TIP. After my boat was impounded in late November, a very nice lady at the new Banjercito office in Puerto Vallarta patiently explained that the "valid until" date has no meaning for a 10-Year TIP, and that since my current TIP was indeed good until 2019, I couldn’t get a replacement." 

Despite the hassle when his boat was first impounded, Hards wrote the following: "I have many friends who worry about me, and may get too fussy with perceived threats, but I am thankful every day for my retirement in Mexico." Given the fine, we’re not sure how Hards feels now. He’s spent the last couple of days looking for lawyers.

When Hards returned to his boat on Thursday, he was informed that he could no longer deal with AGACE/Hacienda, as the matter had been turned over to the courts. Except for attorney fees, it seems this is a good thing, because any halfway fair-minded judge is going to dismiss the fine.

That any part of the Mexican government could not accept its responsibility for the typo on Hards’ TIP makes us want to bang our head against the wall. We’ve spent 30+ years being the biggest promoters of nautical tourism to Mexico, and then they pull something like this that is so unfair and so stupid. It’s not uncommon for Mexico to reduce fines from an initial $100,000 U.S. to $25, but even if that happens, or if the court throws the judgment out, it’s still outrageous. For what it’s worth, the few boats at San Carlos Marina that didn’t have any TIP were fined just $113.

The other day we received the following email from a member of the King Harbor YC: "I am scheduled to be in this year’s Newport to Ensenada Race, but will probably withdraw. Even though my crew might call me a wimp, I absolutely cannot risk my boat being part of an AGACE hassle. It’s not my crew’s boat that would be embargoed."

So the situation in Mexico continues to be this: For the vast majority of owners of foreign-owned boats in Mexico, everything is hunky dory, and they are having a grand time. But for those unlucky few who still haven’t had their boats released after three months — despite being perfectly legal — or for those who are getting screwed by Mexico’s myopic sense of right and wrong, it’s an ongoing nightmare.


1 Comment

  1. Heather 2 years ago

    Does anyone know how to reach the author of this article? I’m looking for the subject John Arthur Hards, aka Pelican John. This is his daughter in law.

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