A lot of people have expressed concern over the latest Mexican bureaucratic foul-up, where they seized/impounded/took a bunch of private yachts last December. The AP picked up the story a few weeks later: http://www.sail-world.com/Cruising/NH/How-to-ruin-a-yachting-destination.-Mexico-keeps-yachts-impounded/118304
Last week, in a meeting with about 150 La Paz area cruisers, a local marina owner familiar with the issues gave us the low-down. He was very complete and very honest.
The first thing you need to know is that tax collection in Mexico is pretty much a mess. 60% of their revenues come from PEMEX, the Mexican oil company. PEMEX is a disaster. Mexico has some of the easiest oil reserves in the world, and PEMEX can’t get it out of the ground and turned into consumer products. Mexico is a net gasoline importer, and Mexico just revised their constitution to allow outside firms to work the Mexican oil reserves. Other tax sources are also a debacle. So the new administration is correctly trying to fix their revenue problem. Somehow, they identified the rich foreign yachtistas as a potential pot of gold.
So the Federales sent a bunch of fresh young kids with staff and police/military escort to several large marinas. The duly-empowered revenue enhancement officers had notebook PC’s with digital versions of every 10-year Temporary Import Permit.
The TIP allows you to keep your boat in Mexico for a 10-year period, with an available additional 10 years after that.
The duly-empowered revenue enhancement officers went through the marinas boat-by-boat. If they couldn’t identify the VIN number on the boat, the boat was impounded (lots of boats don’t have VIN numbers, or their VIN numbers aren’t visible from outside the boat, or the TIP was issued using an alternative ID number such as the USCG documentation number which is never visible from outside the boat). If they couldn’t find the TIP for a boat, the boat was impounded (there are a significant number of boats down here on alternate plans, such as the pre-computer 20-year TIP). If the owner happened to be on board, they may have been able to straighten things out, but there was no attempt to contact non-present owners. Several boats were impounded for what were clearly clerical errors on the form.
Then the duly-empowered revenue enhancement officers went home. The impounded boats were officially in limbo. There was no process in place to clear the impound, correct deficiencies, or fix problems.
Since then, the Mexican patronage system did what it does best. Contacts were made, attention was paid, and the system is now largely fixed. There were a tiny number of boats that were truly out-of-compliance with the Mexican system (five or so).
Going forward we’re not too worried. We are in full compliance with Mexican law (as far as we can tell). We largely anchor out, and it’s unlikely that the revenue officers will cruise the anchorages. We have photographic copies (mostly weatherproof!) of our TIP and will tape them to the hull, right above the VIN, if we ever end up docked in a marina.