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.
“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 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.