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A day in Volcan and some interesting but taxing information

When I first arrived in Boquete I did a lot of exploration in Chiriqui, later when I was writing for Live and Invest Overseas, I did a lot of travelling throughout Panama. Recently I have logged miles only between  Bugaba, David and Boquete. Yesterday I went to Volcan, just on the other side of Vulcan Baru.

I made the trip to Volcan to do a presentation at their monthly community meeting. I went because I wanted to see, compare, contrast and donate my time and knowledge. It seems that someone who tries to find good speakers for meetings in Boquete should be willing to speak in another community when asked. The topic was the same as I most recently presented in Boquete, Internet 101. My speaking however is not the motivation for this post.

Although I have driven through Volcan to Rio Sereno several times in the past years yesterday was the first time I stopped and looked around since July 2010. Volcan is changing, slowly.

Volcan Panama Community Meeting

Volcan Community Meeting

In Volcan they meet monthly, not weekly as in Boquete. This meeting was in the Artisans center which has shops and a restaurant integrated. The Volcan  meeting is focused on US expats.  One topic yesterday was about a new bill in front of the US House of Representatives, passed in the US Senate already as SB1813. In the US the controversy about the bill focuses on this section.

SEC. 31406. VEHICLE EVENT DATA RECORDERS.

(a) Mandatory Event Data Recorders-

(1) IN GENERAL- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall revise part 563 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, to require, beginning with model year 2015, that new passenger motor vehicles sold in the United States be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements under that part.

In Volcan the focus was on an unrelated amendment that would empower the IRS to seize passports from US taxpayers who owe more than $50,000 in taxes. No place in the world is going to be safe for US tax evaders.

SEC. 40304. REVOCATION OR DENIAL OF PASSPORT IN CASE OF CERTAIN UNPAID TAXES.

(a) In General- Subchapter D of chapter 75 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

‘SEC. 7345. REVOCATION OR DENIAL OF PASSPORT IN CASE OF CERTAIN TAX DELINQUENCIES.

‘(a) In General- If the Secretary receives certification by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue that any individual has a seriously delinquent tax debt in an amount in excess of $50,000, the Secretary shall transmit such certification to the Secretary of State for action with respect to denial, revocation, or limitation of a passport pursuant to section 4 of the Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’.

‘(b) Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt- For purposes of this section, the term ‘seriously delinquent tax debt’ means an outstanding debt under this title for which a notice of lien has been filed in public records pursuant to section 6323 or a notice of levy has been filed pursuant to section 6331, except that such term does not include–

‘(1) a debt that is being paid in a timely manner pursuant to an agreement under section 6159 or 7122, and

‘(2) a debt with respect to which collection is suspended because a collection due process hearing under section 6330, or relief under subsection (b), (c), or (f) of section 6015, is requested or pending.

‘(c) Adjustment for Inflation- In the case of a calendar year beginning after 2012, the dollar amount in subsection (a) shall be increased by an amount equal to–

‘(1) such dollar amount, multiplied by

‘(2) the cost-of-living adjustment determined under section 1(f)(3) for the calendar year, determined by substituting ‘calendar year 2011’ for ‘calendar year 1992’ in subparagraph (B) thereof.

If any amount as adjusted under the preceding sentence is not a multiple of $1,000, such amount shall be rounded to the next highest multiple of $1,000.’.

(b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections for subchapter D of chapter 75 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

‘Sec. 7345. Revocation or denial of passport in case of certain tax delinquencies.’.

(c) Authority for Information Sharing-

(1) IN GENERAL- Subsection (l) of section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

‘(23) DISCLOSURE OF RETURN INFORMATION TO DEPARTMENT OF STATE FOR PURPOSES OF PASSPORT REVOCATION UNDER SECTION 7345-

‘(A) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall, upon receiving a certification described in section 7345, disclose to the Secretary of State return information with respect to a taxpayer who has a seriously delinquent tax debt described in such section. Such return information shall be limited to–

‘(i) the taxpayer identity information with respect to such taxpayer, and

‘(ii) the amount of such seriously delinquent tax debt.

‘(B) RESTRICTION ON DISCLOSURE- Return information disclosed under subparagraph (A) may be used by officers and employees of the Department of State for the purposes of, and to the extent necessary in, carrying out the requirements of section 4 of the Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’.’.

(2) CONFORMING AMENDMENT- Paragraph (4) of section 6103(p) of such Code is amended by striking ‘or (22)’ each place it appears in subparagraph (F)(ii) and in the matter preceding subparagraph (A) and inserting ‘(22), or (23)’.

(d) Revocation Authorization- The Act entitled ‘An Act to regulate the issue and validity of passports, and for other purposes’, approved July 3, 1926 (22 U.S.C. 211a et seq.), commonly known as the ‘Passport Act of 1926’, is amended by adding at the end the following:

‘SEC. 4. AUTHORITY TO DENY OR REVOKE PASSPORT.

‘(a) Ineligibility-

‘(1) ISSUANCE- Except as provided under subsection (b), upon receiving a certification described in section 7345 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 from the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State may not issue a passport or passport card to any individual who has a seriously delinquent tax debt described in such section.

‘(2) REVOCATION- The Secretary of State shall revoke a passport or passport card previously issued to any individual described in subparagraph (A).

‘(b) Exceptions-

‘(1) EMERGENCY AND HUMANITARIAN SITUATIONS- Notwithstanding subsection (a), the Secretary of State may issue a passport or passport card, in emergency circumstances or for humanitarian reasons, to an individual described in subsection (a)(1).

‘(2) LIMITATION FOR RETURN TO UNITED STATES- Notwithstanding subsection (a)(2), the Secretary of State, before revocation, may–

‘(A) limit a previously issued passport or passport card only for return travel to the United States; or

‘(B) issue a limited passport or passport card that only permits return travel to the United States.’.

(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall take effect on January 1, 2013.

Source Govtrack.us

I often wonder if anyone in the US Congress reads the bills they vote on, or considers the impact. It is clear the US government wants more tools to take what they think is due to them. This IRS has often been used a tool to deal with matters the were otherwise untouchable, remember Al Capone. His jail time was not for murder, it was for tax evasion. My advise to US taxpayers, file your returns, file your FBARS, file whatever is needed and sleep better at night.

I spoke on the Internet and the final presentation in a meeting spanning two hours, was regarding smash and grab robberies that are occurring in David. There have been a string of these all focused on people leaving the HSBC bank in the El Rey Shopping center in David. The targets are people who withdrew large sums of cash, left the cash in their cars went elsewhere, return to discover a broken window and no cash. It is pretty obvious someone is observing transactions in the bank and has associates on the outside doing some very profitable smashing and grabbing.

The group was small between 20 and 30 people. People were from Volcan, La Barraqueta and Bugaba, large distances.

After the meeting I visited a few places, some familiar one new. I had lunch, a executive special for $4.50 at a place new to me, a large, multi faceted place call La Cava of Volcan, it was a good lunch and I ran into some Boquete people returning from their quarterly pilgrimage to  Costa Rica.

Then off to Berard’s back door to pick up some goodies, they are about 20% less expensive there than in the markets. Finally across the highway in Collegio San Benito to the Lands End outlet. Sadly the selection for June was too heavy on inexpensive down coats. I wanted a rain coat, they had many but all were lined with something making them too well insulated for here.

After Volcan I drifted down to Concepcion, a detour motivated by a lust for some cigars. (Note to my children: Your father is still vice ridden.) I stopped in the Caribbean Tobacco facility and bought direct from the ladies there, it took some negotiating but what started at $7 ended up at $4, so advice is never say yes on the first offer.

In all a nice day trip and nice view of beautiful Volcan, a great place to visit but I would not want to live there. Some people consider Boquete boring, I heard that again last week from an expat. Boring is a state of mind, but I am convinced that there is little community interaction in Volcan, Boquete has a critical mass and that makes for activities that can fill in for social interaction many of us need.

 

Volcan for a Sunday Shopping fest

Volcan has become closer to Boquete Panama with the Ruta Sur completed from Potorillos to just below Volcan. Mayra and I decided to escape from the rain in Boquete and try the rain in Volcan for some variety. The rain felt the same, but I was introduced to Collegio San Benito and it’s unusual stores.

San Benito is a Catholic High School dedicated to providing an education in agriculture for the poorest of the poor in Panama. In its long history it has had many students pass though it’s gates. In the past many from remote areas lived on campus, now there are only five resident students and they earn their lodging, meals and education working on the large campus. The campus is a dairy farm and a high school. It is also home to three stores open to the public that provide revenue for many projects. You enter from a drive way directly across from Berards market in Volcan.

One store was laden with over the counter pharmaceuticals, chocolate and lots of other goodies.
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On our way to the Lands End store, we needed to purchase a cell phone case from this local vendor.
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The Store was busy, but Mayra found space to dive into things.
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I was lucky enough to find this treasure for a new raincoat.
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And our little cell phone bag seller was warmer and with some cuddly company be the time we left. We provided the bear, another person the down coat.

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The third store was low key featuring used items of household goods, new furniture and art for sale. If you want to explore for yourself the hours are, Closed Monday, Tuesday to Friday 1:30- 4:45 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9:30am -11:45am, 1:30pm- 4:45pm

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Hostel Dona Mirna Volcan Panama

Driving from Boquete Panama to Volcan is a day trip, but we decided to stay overnight. Lorena stayed with family and Heather and I contacted a friend of mine, Marukel.

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Marukel is the proprietor of a new Hostel in Volcan, Hostel Dona Mirna. The hostel is named after Marukel’s mother who operated the first hostel in Volcan and who prepared a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit, Orange juice, Volcan coffee, breads and pastries for us in the morning.

Hostel Dona Mirna is located just outside Volcan on the road to Cerro Punta, it is small, currently three bedroom, quite, secure and although lacking curb appeal a great place to spend a night.
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To find Hostel Dona Mirna you drive from Volcan toward Cerro Punta until you see the Taller Pitty sign, then turn left into the compound.

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Once inside the hostel has a guest common area

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and private rooms with a shower and bathroom.

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Marukel is often booked by word of mouth and I guess this is just a more public expression of the same. These are the rates for the Hostel and you can make a reservation by emailing Marukel at hostal_volcan@hotmail.es or call her cell phone at 65 63 30 52 Remember this is not the Hilton but a small family business and savor the experience.

Individual B/. 27.50
Double B/. 33.00
Triple B/. 44.00

Breakfast B/: 4.00

Road trip from Boquete to Cerro Punta

Cerro Punta is only a few kilometers from the Quetzal trailhead in Boquete Panama, a few KM on foot. If you want to avoid the hike you need to drive to David, toward the frontier with Costa Rica, through Volcan and up the right fork at Romeros in Volcan.

Whether you live in Panama or not Cerro Punta is a site worth visiting. Cerro Punta is the vegetable basket of Panama and has amazing farms that run almost vertical in the volcanic soil.

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There is also the amazing Fina Dracula orchid farm, well worth a visit and if you like orchids a tour through their collection.

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If you do go to Cerro Punta watch out for the fumigation. Along with the beauty is the reality that Panama has a very high usage of pesticides and other agricultural chemicals and Cerro Punta on a day of fumigation is unbearable. The Smithsonian Institute has a wonderful simple PDF for classroom use expalin the pesticide problem, download it here. Think about the food stuffs that do come from there that we eat daily. A good friend who has lived in Volcan for many years suggests looking for vegetables that look like they have been munched on by a bug or two, better for the bug, better for you too. There is a growing market and supply of organic foods in Panama, in particular for fruits and vegetables it is really important.

There are lots of photos below.

Road Trip: Boquete Panama to Volcan Panama Il Forno Restaurant

In Chiriqui Panama there are two wonderful highland communities with temperate weather, Boquete Panama and Volcan Panama. The route between them is currently long going through David and taking at least 90 minutes by car. Soon, we hope the 7.7 Million dollar Ruta Sur project will reduce that travel time to less than one hour. For now the communities are isolated not by distance but by roads.

My friends Lorena and Heather accompanied me on a trip to Volcan this week. Among our other adventures we visited the Il Forno restaurant in Volcan.
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Il Forno is operated by a transplanted American from New Jersey and after eating there twice I believe they have the best Italian food in the Province, including veal something not often found on a menu in Panama. To find Il Forno drive into Volcan past Romeros and continue straight toward Rio Serrano, and you will see a sign on your left shortly after passing Romeros.

Your will discover excellent Pizza, great Chicken Parmigiana like this one below.

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Or something different like this shrimp and bacon in a white sauce I enjoyed.
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The food is excellent, the service is very good, the environment warm and woody.

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I recommend a trip to Volcan and a stop at Il Forno, they are open for lunch and dinner Thursday through Sunday.

The menu is below.

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