Estimated Reading Time: 11 Minutes
Do you want to know everything about taxes in Costa Rica? In this article, I will cover what type of taxes the local government charges and when they must be paid. You must pay taxes when you work, own a business, or own a property here. And, of course, you don’t want to pay them too late.
Do your homework and learn which taxes you have to pay. Do NOT expect to receive a tax notification in the mail, because our tax authorities will not send you anything. You’re supposed to know when to pay and how much and take care of it! Fines are low here, but if you don’t pay because you didn’t know you had to, you might get into trouble.
Are you planning to buy real estate? Or maybe start a business? Do you have to pay any tax when you live here, even though you don’t have any income? Which taxes do you have to pay when you own property, when doing business, or are someone’s employee? Before you move here, you should learn all about taxes in Costa Rica.
This guide offers all the necessary information for you to understand what taxes, how much and when you might have to pay if you live in our beautiful country. It’s easy to always be up to date on all your Costa Rican tax payments and understand the basics. There are quite a few links to websites in Spanish, so feel free to use Deepl to translate.
Since we are in the Costa Rica real estate business, let’s start with property tax and other related taxes first:
The property tax, or Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles, is one of the taxes in Costa Rica that is ridiculously low. Property owners pay a 0.25% property tax over the value registered in the Municipality where the property is located.
The value has to be updated by the property owner every 5 years. This is mandatory. This article will explain the declaration, which includes how to calculate and where to get the values. Some municipalities are now connected to the National Property Register. So as soon as a property is sold, the Municipality will know what the property sold for.
You do NOT receive a notification from the city telling you that you must pay property tax, although you might expect them to.
Property tax and municipal tax both have to be paid every quarter. You can request the annual amount from your municipality before the end of January. When you pay annually, you’ll receive a 2% discount. Very few municipalities offer an online system to pay your property tax.
Besides the property tax, you’ll also be charged for other municipal services. Because the municipalities are autonomous, the law allows them to calculate the charges for those services as they see fit. Therefore, the rate of charge per million colones of each item can vary in each municipality. Here is an example of how some municipalities calculate the rate:
- Road cleaning (Aseo de Vias) – Property value x ¢131 / 1,000,000
- Park maintenance (Servicio Parques) – Property value x ¢12.24 / 1,000,000
- Storm sewer (Alcantarillado) – Property value x ¢21.10 / 1,000,000
- Garbage pickup (Basura) – A fixed amount
The property tax and municipal services must be canceled on or before March 31st, June 30th, September 30th, and December 31st, or you can pay them all together in January of each year. Nonetheless, it’s good to know that the fine for late payments is really low.
Luxury Home Tax
We have a Luxury Home Tax, or Impuesto Solidario, which is only for luxury homes. Supposedly the government uses it to eradicate the shacks of the poor.
Article 7 of the law explains that the periodicity for filing the declaration is three years, constituted by the triennia. The current three-year period comprises the years 2022, 2023, and 2024. For the year 2023, the scale was updated by Decree No. 43370-H published in Scope 262 of La Gaceta No. 246 of December 22, 2021, and as of the taxable value of more than ₡148,000,000.00, it is subject to this tax.
Calculating this tax, if your home fits in this category, is not so simple. You can go to this page on our site for all the necessary information on this tax. Homes are exempt from Luxury Home Tax up to ¢148.000.000 – (this is the value of the construction). Learn about calculating this tax on the Tax Office’s website on the Impuesto Solidario.
The luxury home tax has to be paid every year before January 17th through the ATV system.
Those who own a corporation have had to pay corporation tax since 2017. If you have a corporation with a commercial or business activity, ask your accountant for the latest updates.
Having an inactive corporation probably means that you own a car, a boat or a property through a corporation of which you are a shareholder, and the corporation is not active businesswise.
Have you paid your mandatory corporation tax every year? If you don’t, the local tax authorities will put a legal mortgage (a lien) on your property, so that you cannot sell it until you’re up to date.
You have to be a citizen or a legal resident of Costa Rica to be able to comply with the mandatory declaration of beneficial owners and shareholders, for which you need a digital signature.
If you’re not a citizen or a legal resident, and you own a corporation in our country, contact your lawyer or click on the banner below of an excellent service that will take care of everything for you:
Do you have an inactive corporation? The Tax Authorities have not updated the information for 2023 yet. Then you don’t have to pay anything until April 30, 2023. Send us an email or ask your lawyer before that date what the corporation tax is going to be.
You must present the Corporation Tax declaration or Impuesto a las personas jurídicas before April 30, 2023.
Timbre Educacion y Cultura
Every corporation has to pay the Timbre de Educacion y Cultura annually. So if you have a corporation that owns a car, a boat, or a property, you’ll have to pay it EVERY year, during February or March at Banco de Costa Rica.
The Mandatory Declaration of Beneficial Owners and Shareholders
Capital Gain Tax
Since 2019, investors must pay capital gain tax – impuesto de ganancias de capital- when selling an investment property. The sale of your main residence is exempt from this tax for citizens and residents. Investment property must pay the tax. So if you read in an online article that we don’t have a capital gain tax, the article is from before 2019!
Domiciled sellers have to pay the tax after closing. A domiciled owner is a citizen, a resident, or a corporation.
When the seller is non-domiciled, the buyer (or their attorney) must retain the tax and pay it for the seller.
The law imposes a capital gain tax of 15%. However, if the property was acquired before the law was implemented, which is July 1, 2019, then the taxpayer has the one-time option to sell the property and pay a 2.25% tax on the sales price of the property.
The seller pays this tax to the tax authorities after closing. To do so, you have to fill out the D162 form on the ATV system, which will calculate the tax to be paid. I suggest you ask an accountant for assistance. Once you have submitted the form to the system, you can pay the tax at Banco de Costa Rica.
When you retire here, no matter where you come from, you probably already pay taxes on your retirement income. This exempts you from paying income tax here. Yes, retirees do NOT pay any taxes on their foreign retirement income. You only pay income tax if you receive an income in this country. So, if you live here, work online, and receive your income in another country, you do not have to pay income taxes here.
Our fiscal year starts on January 1 and ends on December 31st.
The income has to be declared with Form D-101. Here is a Guide on income tax.
When to pay
The annual income tax is declared and paid each year within two months and fifteen calendar days of the ordinary fiscal period, which runs from January 1 to December 31 of each year.
Are you an employee? Then your employer should deduct the taxes from your salary. The first ¢817.000,00 income is exempt. We don’t have the deductibles you might know from your home country, like studies, how many children you have, or your mortgage. Check on taxable income for employees here.
Individual Income Tax – Self-Employed Income
Do you work in your name? We don’t have the deductibles you might know from your home country, like studies, how many children you have, or your mortgage. Then check taxable income here.
The taxable income for corporations changes every year, which is why you should always check with your accountant first.
Do you have your own business? Then the income tax is divided into several stages: 5% – 10% – 15% – 20% and 30%, so you can best check here.
You can also check here for the tax history here.
Marchamo – Circulation tax
Every year, you must pay circulation or road tax on any vehicle you own. This tax is charged by INS (the government-owned insurance company).
The deadline to pay the marchamo is December 31. Late payments carry a 10% fine per month.
Starting Jan. 1, drivers without the marchamo sticker displayed on their vehicles will be fined and have their license plates removed.
Allow me to tell you a bit about the import tax system here. One thing is for sure, once you live here, you pay quite a bit of taxes. It speaks for itself that the government needs income to pay too many employees, build roads, and run the country. So they get most of their income from taxing all imported articles.
That means all cars, jewelry, clothing, liquor, and food products are taxed. Some are higher than others and are therefore more expensive here than in other countries. Every article has a different tax, this article gives you an idea about the percentages. Do your homework on this before you decide to move to Costa Rica.
If you bring your household with you when you move here, it will be taxed. Bring them in as used articles, and you’ll do fine.
Depending on how you dress, many of us go to the States at least once a year for shopping. In another article, you can find out how to move your household without paying too much import tax.
Sales Tax, now IVA
In other countries, you pay state tax, sales tax, VAT, or whatever you call it. We now pay 13% Value Added Tax or IVA in Spanish – Impuesto Valor Agregado, on almost everything. This includes products and services. The IVA will show on every invoice when you pay.
When you sell your house through a real estate agent, you must pay the agent the real estate commission PLUS 13% IVA. The real estate agent is a collector for the state, like a store or a restaurant. This is the law.
Do you have a business in Costa Rica? Or maybe a commercial or residential rental property or a vacation rental? Starting in 2019, any rental income property pays income tax and 13% VAT. This VAT is paid by the tenant on top of the rent. Learn more about VAT here.
Service Fee – Tips
I call it a service tax even though it is a mandatory tip. The 10% tip for restaurant/bar service assures the waiter and bartender to receive a tip automatically. This 10% service fee is ALWAYS included in your restaurant or bar bill. It’s a great idea, although it does nothing to promote better services.
If you feel you received incredible service from your waiter or bartender, feel free to tip extra, but it is unnecessary.
The Tax Collector
The tax collector, Ministerio de Hacienda, is not very good at collecting taxes; there is huge tax evasion on all levels. They are always trying to create new taxes, like most governments. Nonetheless, you are responsible for keeping track of what type of taxes you have to pay, how much, and when.
There are always proposals like another gas tax to build new roads, a tax on power bills to create fire departments in smaller towns, and many others. Unfortunately, the money ends up in the wrong places because of budget shortages everywhere. Our country is 40 years behind in its tax system; if you compare it with others, its growth is not as we wish.
It’s the reason for never having money to build new bridges, maintain roads, have up-to-date equipment to work with, and training of their employees. During 2020, Covid 19 has made matters worse. The Central government has tried to raise more taxes and control tax evasion through a central invoicing system.
I expect this article about taxes in Costa Rica was useful for tracking what tax you need to pay and when. We have all the knowledge you need to guide you through purchasing your new home in this incredible country.
Contact us now. We appreciate your business.
Used in images: Image by drobotdean on Freepik