Taxes often are overlooked when discussing the rights of consumers

Costa Rican officials will be celebrating World Consumer Rights Day through Friday.

Today there is a ceremony organized by the Ministerio de Economía, Industria y Comercio in the Colegio de Abogados in Zapote. A series of roundtables will last through Thursday.

Friday there will be displays at the various malls.

The day came to be after then-U.S. president John F. Kennedy enumerated the rights of consumers in 1962, according to the Consumer International organization.

Despite the efforts of the consumer agency that is part of the economics ministry, consumers have an uphill fight for rights in Costa Rica. A number of news stories have outlined the high interest rates that some credit card providers charge. In some cases the rates are in the 60 percent range.

The economics ministry does surveys and reports the rates periodically. Workers there also report that the number of credit cards and the credit debt of Costa Ricans continues to rise.

There have been no successful efforts in the legislature to cap credit card interest rates.

Consumers, when they make most purchases, face a 13 percent sales tax. The government seeks to make this a 15 percent value-added tax with promises of rebates to officially designated poor people.

An argument could be made that the government has a major interest in retail sales.

Gasoline prices, for example, are half taxes.

Some expats have been blindsided by a big jump in the marchamo or road tax that is levied annually on motor vehicles, boats and aircraft. Then there is the luxury home tax that has a still-undefined impact on home sales.

When a motor vehicle is imported into Costa Rica, the Ministerio de Hacienda usually assesses an amount that might be 80 percent of the vehicle’s value. That is why cars are so expensive here.

The import duty then becomes part of the vehicle’s value, so when the marchamo comes around, the government really is charging taxes on the import duty it already charged.

The same is true of all imports. Most are hit with a 14 percent import tax that is then incorporated into the retail price on which a 13 percent tax is levied.

Not much of this will be discussed by officials this week.taxes031516

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