Lawmakers call upon president to sidetrack tourism sales tax

Legislators from a range of political parties are asking for the president to immediately act in preventing a new sales tax that they say will harm Costa Rica’s tourism industry.

Monday at the Asamblea Legislativa, a pair of representatives from the Partido Unidad Social Cristiana were joined by lawmakers from at least three other political factions in an effort to stop a pending tariff for tours into national parks. Luis Vásquez, a Social Cristiana legislator who also acts as the president of the legislature’s tourism commission, and fellow party representative Johnny Leiva sent a letter directly to President Luis Guillermo Solís in hopes of quick intervention.

The finance ministry announced the increased sales tax last week as an additional caveat into an article of the country’s general sales tax law. It proposes that those entering national parks and protected lands for recreational or tour purposes are now subject to larger tax fees.

Tourism leaders, and now policy makers, are denouncing the new tariff as a subjective interpretation that never existed before. In their request to the president, Vásquez and Leiva ask that President Solís clearly defines the meaning of recreation centers, which are stated as subject to sales tax in Section C of the law.

“We respectfully ask for your intervention against the finance ministry with the objective of defining the concept of recreational centers and distinguishing those from conservation areas and national parks,” the letter reads.

Otto Guevara, head of the Partido Movimiento Libertario, said Monday that if this issue is not solved in short-term, then legislators will be charged with passing a bill to prevent its possible long-term damage to tourism.

“Costa Rica is already an expensive destination, and if it becomes more expensive then we can expect less tourists,” Guevara said., adding:

“Less tourists means less money for the sector and less money means less employment positions for an important national industry.”

Barring any executive intervention, the increased fees are due to take effect Wednesday.

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