Financial watchdog issues critical report on exit tax

The nation’s financial watchdog has issued a critical report on the $5 land exit tax.

This is the tax that individuals pay when they leave the country at any of the four border crossings.

The watchdog, the Contraloría General de la República noted that there were serious problems in implementing the tax and that this was not done until last April, some nine months after the tax was supposed to go into effect.

Still, the country had collected by September 1.5 billion colons in tax money.  Half of this is supposed to go toward improving the border crossing facilities. That’s about $2.8 million.

The Contraloría report noted that there has been no movement to apply this money to the stated purpose.

Those leaving the country by land have to pay the $5 tax, but they also have to pay $2 for the service of scanning and x-rays of luggage. They have to pay this even if they have no luggage. The Contraloría noted that those leaving the country at Sixaola in southeastern Costa Rica also have to pay the tax even though there are no facilities to scan luggage. And when authors of the report visited border crossings in September, there was no scanning being done, they said.

The Contraloría also said that the regulations that are supposed to supplement the law have not been issued, although the Ministerio de Hacienda has issued a series of instructions about the tax.

The report was critical of Bancredito, which was supposed to set up facilities to collect the tax. The Contraloría noted that the bank only has a presence at the Paso Canoas and a smaller one at the Sabalito border crossing into Panamá and that it has hired agents elsewhere who charge travelers additional money for a tax receipt.

The report also said that the border crossing facilities mostly were in poor condition and the relatively new building at Sabalito does not have running water. A fifth land exit point is expected to be available soon at Las Tablillas in the canton of Los Chilies at the Nicaraguan border.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería is responsible for verifying that the tax has been paid.

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