Mexico: The Dangers of Paying Your Property Taxes Online

The first year that I paid property taxes (called predial), I did it in person down at the Palacio Municipal in Tulum.

The experience was fast, easy, and uncharacteristically efficient for a government office. I have to admit, I was very impressed.

I always pay my property taxes early in order to receive a discount. I drove down to the Palacio Municipal in November in an attempt to pay my 2018 taxes early, but they told me I would have to wait until December. Once December rolled around, I decided to save myself a trip and pay my predial online via the municipal government’s online portal.

The portal worked very well. I was able to pull up my property taxes, see the amount due (which included the discount for early payment), and pay the entire amount with a credit card. The system then sent me a receipt that included a QR code — very impressive.

I never gave it another thought until I received an email from a neighbor warning us of paying online. He said that the municipality may not update their system correctly when you do it electronically , so it’s better to go in person.

Down the Rabbit Hole

We had some errands to run in Tulum today, so I decided to swing by the Palacio Municipal while I was there and request a receipt confirming that they had received my online payment.

I went to the window and explained to the young female clerk why I was there. She asked to see my documents and I handed her copies of the receipts.  She pulled up the account on her computer and carefully studied the screen for a moment.

What happened next reminded me of a cross between an Abbott and Costello skit and a Dilbert Cartoon.

“I can’t give you a confirmation that you paid because you still owe money,” she said.

“What do you mean I still owe money?” I asked.

“You paid the discounted amount and now it’s too late to get the discount, so you have to pay the difference.”

“I’m not here to pay my property taxes, I already did that back in December. I even have an electronic receipt from the city showing that I paid. I’m just here to verify that everything went through fine and get a some type of documentation — like a receipt — saying such.”

“I can’t give you one because you still owe money,” she said.

“Does the computer show that I paid back in December?”

“Yes, it does, but it indicates that you paid the discounted amount, not the current amount.”

I felt myself slipping down the rabbit hole. “It shows I paid the discounted amount because I paid in December. I clicked the button and paid via your website. I didn’t enter the amount, your program did.”

She just stared back at me.

“If someone pays in December, don’t they automatically receive a discount?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“I clearly did that. So, what do I have to do to get a written confirmation from you showing that everything is paid?”

“You have to go to the cashier’s window and pay the difference.”

I could feel my heartbeat in my right eye. “Why would I have to pay the difference? I already paid.”

“Because the computer only listed your payment as a credit. Since the discount is no longer offered, it now shows that you owe the difference.”

“So, we both agree that I paid it back in December when the discount was offered. Is that correct?”

She nodded her head.

“But in spite of that, you want me to pay more now due to some computer issue. Is that correct?”

She nodded her head again.

“That doesn’t make any sense at all. What is the purpose of paying online then?”

She just shrugged.

The Appeal

The clerk said that my only recourse was to write a letter to the city’s treasurer explaining that I already paid and requesting the discount. She then handed me a pen, a blank piece of paper and a copy of someone else’s letter to use as a template.

I quickly scratched it out, attached my online receipt and handed everything back to her.

I asked her how long the appeals process would take and she told me to wait a moment. She took my paperwork into another room and I suddenly felt optimistic that this matter would be taken care of quickly — no such luck.

She returned five minutes later, handed me back my paperwork and told me to return the next afternoon.

Let’s Wrap This Up

I decided to do a post about the incident because the majority of the expats that I know paid their property taxes online this year. If you’re one of them, you might want to swing by the Palacio Municipal the next time you’re in town. Bring your documents and a lot of patience.

I plan on paying my predial in person from now on.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget. In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times.

29 Comments on "Mexico: The Dangers of Paying Your Property Taxes Online"

  1. Thanks Paul, I had considered using the online payment facility…just glad I never got round to it. Good luck tomorrow

  2. I just learned how inefficient things online can be here in Mexico. I had an issue with an online receipt of my electric bill. Trying to be “green” and save a printed bill I opted for an email version. Needless to say, when trying to pay at the local store, they couldn’t scan it off my phone. I tried several different ways. Finally went to a different register and they were able to scan it. Lesson learned. Stick with the paper. We are so accustomed to having things electronic that we forget it’s not quiet as advanced or easy here in Mexico. Just another thing we need to take a step back on and be ok with a little “old school” way of doing things.

  3. Hélène Tellier | February 13, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Reply

    The same thing happened to me Paul, my lawyer had alerted me about it. Out of principle, I went to the Palacio Municipal, and got the same story. I stayed right there and my (Spanish) lawyer wrote the letter for me. We had to wait to meet the Director, I pleaded my case, my lawyer confirmed, and the director approved my letter and stamped it. And he did say that it would take a little while for the computer to catch up. Lesson learned for next time: you have to pay, and then write an email to them to let them know you paid … 🙂

  4. I, too, often feel that my life is a musical comedy and I listen for the sound track.

    The same thing happened with our Water Bill. The previous tenants had not paid their bill in six months. So, the landlord, who didn’t want to bother with the whole thing, said if you will pay it, you can subtract it from the rent each month. The lady at Window Number One said we had to pay the entire amount or they’d shut off the water, we go home to ponder. Next day we return and go to Window Number Two, who says OK to pay monthly, but there will a penalty charge for being late. We return home. Third day we go to Window Number Three, who seems to sympathize with our predicament and agrees that we should be able to pay monthly with no penalty, since it wasn’t our fault BUT FIRST Window Number One has to authorize the arrangement. ‘Holy Shit’ says I, but, they don’t speak English so I am not thrown out of the office. By this time Window Number One has had enough of us and will authorize whatever just to ensure we don’t come back the next day. We are now VERY prompt at paying the water bill we do not want to incur her rath, now that she has had time to recover.

  5. Paul, Truly sorry for your fiasco, but I have to say that Gary and I were near tears when we read your narrative. The rabbit hole and heart beating in your left eye comments were priceless! Sadly, I experienced the same sensations during a recent phone conversation with my local cable company. The psychosis of beauracratic lunacy is a global problem! Good luck and thanks for the tips, as always! Jean

  6. Javier Macías | February 13, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Reply

    This is awful. It once happened to me some years ago that I paid online but the system never seemed to confirm they had received my payment. In the end I tried again and got charged twice. I suppose in Quintana Roo and Yucatan you get in your Predial report what is called a “Línea de Captura” like we do in Mexico city, (a many digits code which is what they use to register your payment was done to pay a specific issue). Although I have kept paying online as we get immediate confirmation of the payment (which I save on my computer as a PDF anyway) in Mexico city, I´m aware (and it´s horrible to say) that some other states´electronic state´s web pages are way unneficient. I believe the eassiest and most effective strategy to pay any government due or tax, is to take your predial, tenencia or whatever bill, and pay it at any cashier at stores such as Walmart or any bank. They´ll print a receipt of your payment which happens to be the proof that the payment was done accurately and on time. Awfully to say, indeed, this is a country where that store´s receipt (ticket) has more legal value than whatever the system shows. I´m sorry to read what you just went trough. Find out if possible, any way to prove that you paid your predial on that time (on time) such as your credit card month´s report, or any possible email confirmation from the webpage of the state´s office. The other thing you can do if at the office they keep telling you to go pay the difference, is call the authorities right there saying you are trying to be extorsioned by a public agent wanting you to go pay a difference you clearly shouldn´t pay. It´s way more likely they´ll listen to you as you are an american.

  7. OMG. The scenario you describe makes me cringe because it exists in all bureaucracies … good luck, and keep posting your adventures!

    BTW, we’re vacationing in Tulum this July . Planning on hitting a couple of places you mentioned especially the craft brewery.

  8. This account made me smile. Here in Merida, I don’t even receive a Predial bill; I just take last year’s paid receipt to the office and they tell me how much I owe this year…

  9. Another caveat regarding paying the predial: I paid the bill early at HSBC, where I got a receipt. The next year I received my tax bill and it showed that I owed for unpaid taxes!
    Turns out, I was suppose to take this bank receipt to Palacio. I did take it there and like all of us, I went through Abbott and Costello routine. I lost the discount. Now, I pay in person.

  10. Jean Ann Kezlan | February 13, 2018 at 6:55 pm | Reply

    Oh Lordy It is time for me to pay my Federal taxes for rights to 20 meters of the beach. ( so no one can come along and put up a taco stand in front of my house) I have been told by several people that I do not have to pay now because of the mar de fundo that destroyed a lot of our barrio……..who knows….guess I better ask and find out. BTW, I really enjoy your posts.

  11. Pavoroso Linda and Paul,thanks for doing the best blog ever,but in my opinion it appears people do not quite realize,New country,new language,new culture,new food,new laws,new terrain,NOT home anymore! Thanks again for the marvelous effort!

  12. Sorry for my ignorance but how long does awaiting moderation take?

  13. This one of the best posts ever …your story and the subscribers! I appreciate the time you give us. Thank you!

  14. Ethel aka Fran | February 14, 2018 at 8:35 am | Reply

    OMG!! I am still scratching my head on this one! Who’s on first!?!?

  15. Always helpful.. and- sort of amusing. I don’t think I have been here long enough to be totally jaded in the Mexican way. So far we haven’t had the feeling of the endless Catch 22 that seems to be prevalent in so many of the bureaucratic systems here… If Mexico has taught me anything it is patience, keep a sense of humor and realize there will be more than a few dead-end conversations to processes that don’t make sense. I am still amused that going to parks, how there are two windows for admission, one to pay the entrance fee and the other to pay some local tax – you would think they would see the absurdity in the process- then I remind myself, this their country, they get to do it their way, and we are just lucky enough to be invited guest. So, lesson learned, go in person, always get a receipt, and realize that technology while it looks easy doesn’t always work the way we want it too…

  16. For anyone living in Mexicali/San Felipe. Here is the online web site to look up how much you owe. If you choose to pay on this site, it does create the same receipt you would get at the tax office. If you already paid, you can get a copy of the receipt here. http://www.mexicali.gob.mx/webpub/consultaweb/RecaudacionPredial.aspx

    • The site for Tulum created a tax receipt too. The only difference is that it wasn’t hand stamped, otherwise it’s the same thing. It still didn’t help.

      We’ve been told by some attorneys here that this sort of thing is not uncommon and it is always best to go pay in person and get hand-stamped receipts showing it was paid.

  17. Joe B. from Kent Island, MD | February 14, 2018 at 11:54 am | Reply

    Funny stuff (for readers anyway)….thanks.

    Kinda reminds me of this story from the good ole US of A. Some question it’s authenticity, but it sure seems plausible to me:

    http://www.inspire21.com/stories/humorstories/2dollarBillatTacoBell

  18. I live in Canada. I’ve had similar problems here with large corporations and a few governmental departments in Quebec province, which is also know for excessive bureaucracy.

  19. You pay the tax on property in advance? I just bought property in November 2017and have received nothing. Is there a site I should go to?

    • They never send you anything to notify you. Depending where you live, you might be able to look it up on the website for the municipality. If not, you’ll have to stop by the Palacio Municpal to get the information.

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