Exit tax suspended at overwhelmed Peñas Blancas

Immigration workers suspended collecting the land exit tax again Friday morning when the crush of Semana Santa vacationers caused delays of at least an hour.

The Dirección General de Migración said that the tax was suspended on orders from the Ministerio de Hacienda in San José.

The reason, of course, is that most revelers have no idea that the tax exists. Those who arrive at the border without paying the $7 tax can only pay the tax at a machine that only accepts credit cards.

Many of the travelers were Nicaraguans going home for the holidays. Some 3, 925 persons left Costa Rica at the Peñas Blancas border crossing Friday.

Bancrédito is in charge of collecting the exit tax and remitting the proceeds to the government. However, the bank has not advertised that the tax  exists And workers at Hacienda have been confused since December as to whether the tax is being collected or not.

Officials said they hoped to reinstitute the tax.

The tax was supposed to go into effect Dec. 23, but the system collapsed for the first time that day at the border due to the flood of travelers. Then there was not even a machine to take the money.

Collection began again April 1, and Bancrédito issued a single press release at that time instructing travelers how to pay the tax. There did not seem to be any articles in the Spanish-language newspapers.

Immigration officials said that with the tax suspended travelers moved normally. Those leaving the country by bus were being pre-checked at the Liberia stations of transport companies.  Bus companies also were providing a way to pay the tax as well as other border chargers.

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