May 5, 2008

Honduras' senior citizen discount

Nice readers wrote to me with this information (below) about Honduras' senior citizen discount, called the tercera edad discount (third age). I wrote back to thank them and let them know that it is something I can look forward to in the future, but right now I don't qualify. They wrote back to say how happy they were that La Gringa responded to their email, but PUT IT ON THE BLOG! So, okay, R and G, here ya go:

When living in Honduras, you want to take advantage of any privilege the laws will give you. After all you have to put up with all the inconveniences (to put it mildly) of living in poor developing country. For Hondurans or residents of Honduras over 60 years (corrected by LG from 65) there is the law of "tercera edad." It compels businesses to give a wide range of discounts from 10 to 30%, like on health and dental care, hotel accommodation, bus fares, airline tickets, restaurant meals and others. In most cases you would have to prove your eligibility by showing your membership in the association of older people or your drivers license that you shows that you are 60 years of age or over.

It really depends on the businesses how strict they are or how willing they are to give the discount. There is usually no problem to get the discount for bus fares, airline tickets (also to the USA), health services, and buying prescription drugs. The law was made many years ago to give the necessary breaks to older people who have a very low or no income at all. The irony is nobody can prove how rich or poor you really are. Like with many laws in Honduras they are well intentioned but difficult to administer or simply ignored. The law of the Tercera Edad is one of them.

If you ask for a discount in a restaurant they may flatly refuse to give it or play ignorant. Ask before ordering. You can put up an argument saying that the laws of Honduras are above the business' policies. As a last resort a friend of mine threatens them that he is going to the local municipal police and complain. Then it becomes a matter of principle rather then saving a few lempiras. At fast food chains there is usually no problem as long as you do not ask for items on promotion or being discounted. Orders from the head office I guess.

Also my experience is, that you often do not get exactly what is shown in the full page advertising ad in the newspaper. As an example on a cup of Carne con Chile, the ads shows a generous sprinkling of cheese at top and only pointing at the picture makes them put the cheese on top. Who eats my cheese!!!

Of course, I never ask for a discount in small family run restaurants, they probably have a hard time to exist. Unfortunately, most of the food served at the fast foods outlets is outright unhealthy, because of the high fat, sugar and starch content. But this could be the title of another article. Did you have any experience with getting the discounts? Let me know.

Thanks for sharing that information and I was remiss not to mention it before. My mother-in-law always uses her discount whenever possible, especially for medicines, but I wasn't really aware of the details. I'm looking forward to a discount on airfare! I'm amazed at that. If this law is like most of the tax laws in the US, no doubt it will change right before I'm eligible to benefit from it.

Like R and G, I wouldn't ask for the discount at small mom and pop restaurants. It seems that most of those places have such a small profit margin as it is.

I did a little research (of course! − I just couldn't leave it so vague) and was amazed at what I found. The following senior citizen discounts apply:

Air, land or sea transportation: 25%
Restaurants: 20% on food
Health care: 20-30%
Drugs: 25%
Hotels: Monday through Friday, 30%; Saturdays and Sundays, 20%
Movies, theaters, museums, sports events, concerts: 50%
Telephone and electric bills: 25% on bills up to L.1,000 per month
Water bill: 25% on bills up to L.300 per month
Cable TV: 30%
Internet: 25%, but only for speeds of 256 kb or less
Mortgage loans: 2% discount on the interest rate, with some exclusions
Property tax: 25% on bills up to L.1,000
Airport exit fee: 20%
Technical or professional services of engineers, architects, and notaries: 25%

Note that there are a few exceptions and qualifications in the law, but not many. Restaurant discounts, for example, are required only for those restaurants classified as category 1 or 2 by the Ministry of Tourism, so I suppose this might exclude the tiny mom and pop places or street vendors.

Don't think that if you have three houses, you can get the discount on all three, because the law precludes that. The fines for fraudulent use or transfer of the discount are steep. The only discount that can be transfered to relatives is one not mentioned above: a 25% discount on funeral services, caskets, and burial plots for the senior citizens.

According to the law, the discounts should be granted for those of 60 years of age or more merely by presenting your Honduran ID card or your residency card in the case of expatriate residents. The law does not apply to tourists. The home and utilities must be in the name of the senior citizen to receive the related discounts.

The senior citizen discount is also something to consider if you are opening a business in Honduras. Denuncias (complaints) can be filed with the Fiscalía and first time offense fines can be approximately L.3,200 to L.9,600 and escalate from there up to losing your business license. The fines are based on the current legal minimum wage so will vary over time. The bright side for business owners is that they can deduct 50% of the discounts granted on their Honduran income tax.

In my search I found that PriceSmart states that they don't grant the senior citizen discount. Well! PriceSmart does sell drugs. How do they get away with that?

So now you know, and what I'd like to know from you senior citizens: Is it really that simple to obtain the discounts or is it a constant hassle having to demand them? I know it is easy at pharmacies.

If you have a hassle, one tip that might work is to make a great show of getting out a pencil and paper and looking for their business license on the wall. Ask whether the attorney listed on the license is still representing them. I have an idea that most businesses would rather give the discount than hear from the fiscalia. I'd love to hear how this works for you if you try it. :-)

Reference: You can find a PDF of law, Decree 199-2006, July 2007 (in Spanish, of course) at Global Legal Information Network.

(What great information. Thanks for twisting my arm, R and G. ;-D )

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