General Taxes in Costa Rica

Find out about Costa Rica's property and luxury taxes, VAT, airport exit tax, and local taxes. Find out who has to pay and how to go about it...

There is little distinction between taxes for Costa Ricans and taxes for foreigners. The fiscal year begins 1 October and ends 30 September.

Currently, foreigners who do not earn money in Costa Rica are not required to pay income tax on their foreign earnings. However, as of June 2012, Costa Rican legislators have been considering a change to the tax system, including requiring a higher percentage in property taxes from luxury home owners, as well as taxing the worldwide income of any person who lives in Costa Rica.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

VAT (impuesto al valor agregado - IVA) in Costa Rica is 13 percent and is added to the cost of non-food purchases, for example, televisions and clothing. VAT is also charged on airline tickets.

In restaurants, 13 percent VAT and a ten percent service charge are added to the bill.

Financial securities and real estate are not subject to VAT. There is, however, a transfer fee for real estate when a property is sold.

Most services are exempt from VAT (for example, professional services like legal and consulting work); however, certain services supplied by restaurants, bars, hotels, motels, and others are subject to VAT.

Airport Exit Tax

All people, foreigners and Costa Ricans alike, must pay a departure tax of US$28 (2012) when leaving Costa Rica via one of the two international airports, San José and Liberia. This tax can be paid at any national bank or at the airport.

Note: At Liberia Airport, the tax can only be paid in US dollars and in cash.

Car and Road Tax

The Marchamo is the obligatory annual car tax and compulsory insurance policy regulated by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros. It ensures that all cars that can legally be driven on the road have a form of insurance protection.

The insurance policy incorporates an annual car tax, which increases or decreases according to the age and weight of the vehicle. It must be paid between mid-November and the end of December every year.

The tax can be paid at most banks, at offices of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT), or online at the INS website (in Spanish). It must be paid between 15 November and 31 December each year.

  • For information on the amount to pay: Click here (in Spanish)

It is worth noting that the Marchamo cannot be paid if there are any outstanding fines (multas) attached to the vehicle or if there is no roadworthiness (RTV) certificate.

When the tax has been paid, the receipt should be kept in the vehicle and the sticker should be placed in the windscreen.