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Costa Rica: Offshore Legal and Tax Regimes

Introduction

Costa Rica does not distinguish between onshore and offshore businesses as such. The basis of taxation is territorial, with both residents and non-residents paying tax on Costa Rican income, and not on foreign-source income.

However, the Government has increasingly sought to make a virtue out of the country's low-tax regime, and there are a number of special regimes offering tax privileges to particular sectors, which are described in this section.

Since 2002, the government has been struggling to pass a package of tax reforms in an attempt to reduce the country's deficit.

The bill itself was eventually killed off shortly before the 2006 presidential elections when the Sala IV constitutional court ruled that supporters acted illegally in the Legislative Assembly by creating new procedures to "fast track" priority legislation, including the tax bill.

In August, 2006, following Oscar Arias's election to the presidency, Costa Rica's legislators once again begun to discuss the vexed question of reforming the country's taxation system, although it would appear likely that the same problems that blocked the former fiscal reform bill for four years could hinder the progress of the new proposals.

The new tax plan is a mixture of the old one, which includes reforms to the income tax system and a new system of value-added tax, and new proposals championed by President Arias designed to redistribute wealth from rich to poor through such mechanisms as a real estate tax on luxury properties and a 0.5% financial transactions tax.

A new tax on corporations has also been proposed as part of the comprehensive tax reform plans. The $200 tax would apply to all personas juridicas, or legal persons, and would be payable within ten days of the start of a new tax year, which would run from January 1 to December 31.

Efforts to introduce tax reform have continued with the latest efforts initially meeting with wide approval. However, the finance minister was forced to resign in early 2012 and the reform bill was shelved. The revised proposal contains no further taxes and no revamping of the sales tax. Instead, much needed revenue is to be raised by stricter enforcement of tax collection, eliminating luxury goods from tax exemption and freezing public sector wages.

The situation regarding the tax reforms remains uncertain.

 

 

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