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Doc Harry

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I just returned from Coz with a carry-on suitcase packed with my full-size housings, multiple ports, multiple lenses, mulitple strobes, etc. No one asked any questions.
 

cozcharlie

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I just returned from Coz with a carry-on suitcase packed with my full-size housings, multiple ports, multiple lenses, mulitple strobes, etc. No one asked any questions.
Thanks. I made it through Coz airport OK also, but they didn't stop and search my luggage.

They were searching a lot more bags than normal it seemed. I wonder if they are trying to make up for lost revenue (I doubt they were looking for camera equipment specifically, seemed to be looking at anything and everything)
 

ggunn

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Thanks. I made it through Coz airport OK also, but they didn't stop and search my luggage.

They were searching a lot more bags than normal it seemed. I wonder if they are trying to make up for lost revenue (I doubt they were looking for camera equipment specifically, seemed to be looking at anything and everything)
Maybe they are just bored.
 

Mike Walker

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I will elaborate a bit more on this at some point but please note:

At SJD the camera housing scam is in full effect.

They have refined it a bit though.

More to come....
 

Sharkygill

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I passed through SJD 2 weeks ago while visiting Cabo Pulmo. I was sweating the housing tax and they were asking about housing and laptops. The english was so bad I said no before realizing what she was asking.... didn't get taxed thank goodness. I suspect the 2 plane loads of tourists hiting the line at the same time helped my cause but on a slower day I had the feeling they would be looking a bit more closely.
 

FlyinV

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Cozumel asked me how many cameras I had during the bag search but that was it.
 

DandyDon

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Cozumel asked me how many cameras I had during the bag search but that was it.
How many did you have? Allowed? Two I think. Phone cameras don't count I hope.
 

FlyinV

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I only had 1 (and my phone) -- No idea how many they would allow you to bring in.
I guess they are looking for resellers of cameras getting around some sort of tax on imported equipment.
 

Mike Walker

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Ok - as promised.
I've been a bit busy though so not as fresh as I'd hoped....

Anyways:
Yes, when I traveled through SJD in mid August I was forced to pay an import duty on my camera housing.
I, being curious and not in a particular hurry, spent more than 90 minutes debating with them as to whether a duty was appropriate.

My conclusion: The front line officers have been instructed to tax housings and provide the reasoning of 'professional equipment'.
They appear to have no discretion in this.
This is most curious as it is a 'shakedown' but not by the officers.
Rather I would speculate it is to hit a quota.
The proceeds are collected by credit card and they do log it in a seemingly robust computer system - it looked like government software: ugly, bloated, hard to use and plenty of tracking data. It's not going in the pocket of anyone local.

I should note that I had priority bags so I was one of the first hitting them. They asked what was in the cases and I answered honestly. Did not feel like experiencing a Mexican jail nor like having $10,000 worth of gear confiscated before a long dive trip. They would have Xrayed them anyways.
I did note that they first asked if I had a camera and then afterwards specifically asked if I had a housing. See below for thoughts on this.

Some observations:
1) The officer I encountered spoke perfect English (hence my willingness to debate for 90 minutes), plus he was very patient and polite. He even made a really good effort to justify the situation but, as I was quite thoroughly prepared, it did eventually reduce to 'either you pay or you don't get into Mexico' when I'd poked holes in most of the 'official' reasoning he appeared to have been trained to promote.
2) They are being very specific about housings now. They saw all my other gear (lenses, ports, etc.) it was just the primary housing they wanted duty for. And they knew just how much to charge (though they made an effort to google it for confirmation). This is, of course, very targeted. To argue that the housing is for professional use while none of the other items related to the camera, nor the camera itself was for professional use was absurd. You can't have one without the other. In my mind this was clear evidence that this was chasing a quota - make it a small enough value to minimize arguments (~$180USD) but collect it enough times to make it worthwhile. I even went so far as to gamble and point out that if they were taxing one thing they should tax the rest - they largely ignored this line of reasoning.
3) I had the letter from Nautilus' Mexican lawyer. They didn't appear to have seen it before as they took a while to read it, however, they basically laughed at it and refused to accept it's validity or reasoning. Additionally they refused to comply with any of the demands in the letter/recommended procedures other than providing an official receipt. Reasoning was it was not part of their standard procedure.
4) I repeatedly asked for permission to contact the lawyer for clarification. This was denied (it is a 'no cell phones' area).
5) I also had a print out of the actual law allowing for two cameras plus accessories. They refused to accept the housing as an accessory though everything across my entire rig was.
6) They focused in on 'professional'. To which I pointed out that for it to be 'professional', by definition in English or Spanish, it needed to be used for a profession. This caught them up and they eventually decided to ignore that path of reasoning as it was inconvenient for their narrative. "How do I know you're not using it to make money"
7) The agent brought up the example of a GoPro and it's housing as an example of 'not Professional' with the justification being that the housing was also sold by GoPro. I pounced on this as absurd - this line of reasoning was also rapidly avoided after that. "If it looks professional to me it is professional and I will tax it"
8) They would only allow me to 'escalate' to the front line supervisor - no further. Her English was much more limited (and my Spanish is useless) so this was pointless. She also wanted nothing to do with the discussion or debate - just "it's professional - you have to pay".
9) They did offer me the path of holding it while I got a Carnet established. This, of course, is completely impractical for a vacation traveler both on cost and time frame. They knew this.

I do think that how busy they are drastically affects how much this is enforced. I had arrived just before lunch and part of my strategy was to try and wear them out until they got hungry and gave up. This did not work.

They did allow me to write 'under protest' when singing the acknowledgement. What I was being charged for on the paper was also quite generic. I suspect there might be a path to a credit card chargeback if one were so inclined. I am not going down this path as based on what my time is worth vs. the cost I would not win even if I won. I believe it has been calibrated to ensure this. Additionally, I've not been prompt in chasing this and I've had to do a lot of chargebacks recently related to airlines and some business matters. I don't want to get flagged by the card issuers for abusing the process over a measly $200 cost.

I did receive a very official looking document as 'my copy'. I intend to keep this on file and present it in the future if they attempt to tax me again for the same equipment.

That being said - this sort of activity makes me hesitate to spend any more money in Mexico. Corruption disgusts me - particularly when it is so brazen and officially sanctioned/mandated. They are ignoring their own clearly written laws to bite the hand that feeds them.

I do appreciate that the officer was patient and cordial through the process. I also appreciate his effort in trying to come up with a justification. But, it was pretty clear he knew what he was part of and they've done a good job of making it essentially unavoidable.

Ultimately, this is just a glorified tourist tax. If they'd just implement a $200 Marine Park Fee and ensured the funds actually went to the parks I think most would be happy to pay it. Instead there is this twisted workaround and I'm certain the money collected is not funding anything of value to either tourists or your average Mexican citizen.

Anyways. Those are my thoughts on the matter. Hopefully helpful to those travelling in that direction in the future.
 

divengolf

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Mike,

great write up. Saw it on WP.

Since this started a few years ago, I have crossed SJD off my travel list. Will not tolerate these scams. Just as easy to go to SJO and the Cocos with no shakedown. Plus CR is a very beautiful and friendly place.

Harry
 
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