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Friday, January 29th, 2016  |  USD: Buy 531.29 / Sell 543.92
20 years

New border tax causing chaos at Nicaragua border

December 3rd, 2013 ( A new border tax which came into effect over the weekend is causing chaos on the Nicaraguan border because Costa Rican immigration workers do not have the necessary devices in place to accept the payments.


Problems began in the evening hours on Sunday, and by yesterday the situation was quickly spiraling out of control, with hundreds of people in line attempting to exit Costa Rica en route to Nicaragua.


The problem appears to be that the devices required for border officials to accept the payments have yet to be installed.


As a result, the new $5 fee must be paid at any Bancrédito branch, but for the moment there is no bank branch in the area, forcing travelers to return to Liberia in order to pay the fee.


The ensuing hassle has crippled the border, as travelers and tourists unaware of the new tax continue to arrive without having paid the fee in Liberia – about an hour’s drive south.  Meanwhile, busloads of people unaware of the new fee also have nowhere to pay it at the border, forcing travelers to abandon the buses on which they were traveling in order to return to Liberia to pay the tax – and make new transportation arrangements.


The situation has led the Directorate General of Immigration to send a request to the Ministry of Finance to suspend the collection of the tax until the issues are resolved.  The Ministry had yet to respond to the request by press time.


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  • roberto

    Dah! LMAO

  • toolman78

    Where to begin? First off what exactly is this new tax? it’s already ridiculous how many people are holding out their hand when you go to Nicaragua. Now they want to charge foreigners to leave the country? How is that even legal. What right do they have to detain a foreign national here if he/she doesn’t have the money to pay? If they collected it before entry, that’s a completely different deal, they can deny entry to whom ever they want, but exit? Stupid illogical legislation like this still drives me up the walls here. Not to mention that they pass the bill for the new tax without any sort of plan for implementing it.

    Rant over.

    • Ken Morris

      Well, they’ve been charging an exit tax at the airport for a long time and that seems legal. (Although I did ask once what they did with exiting foreigners who don’t have the money to pay and was told that the embassy pays for them.) In the case of the land-based exit tax, it’s a fairly transparent way to collect money from the Nicas, who already work for the lowest pay and are rarely protected by Costa Rica’s labor laws. What’s new about either taxing the poor or sticking it to Nicas?

      • toolman78

        If I’m not mistaken, the tax at the airport is an airport tax, like a toll in a sense. While I’m not a fan of it either, I think this aught to be charged to the airlines and up to them to get it from their customers, but it still seems to be legal, even ethical. But charging foreigners to make use of the obligatory facilities at the border, seems a bit like extortion.

        • Ken Morris

          Maybe, but I don’t think this line of reasoning about the exit tax at the airport holds up. First, citizens don’t pay it; second, some of the funds are earmarked for things that are unrelated to air transportation; and third, I don’t believe you have to pay it for a flight inside the country. It looks to me like a tax slapped on every foreigner and non-citizen legal resident who leaves the country via the airport. The land exit tax looks the same to me, although it primarily targets another demographic.

          • toolman78

            I was unaware. I can’t say I payed much attention to whether or not everyone was paying the tax at the airport. If what you say is true, then I would say it’s the same kind of bad legislation. Just, as you say, it’s going to hit people who are already relatively poor the hardest.

          • turbooperator

            FYI Costa Ricans pay the exit tax just like everyone else

          • Ken Morris

            Interesting. I was wondering this. I was told that they don’t at the airport, and specifically asked that question there, but read nothing about this with regard to the land exit tax. If Ticos must pay an exit tax too, this law becomes super questionable, since it’s a step on the slippery slope of North Korea- and Cuba-like totalitarianism. At some point, say $10,000, an exit tax clearly functions to prevent citizens who want to leave from doing so. While $5 may not do this, it is in principle the same thing. CR is on very dangerous ground here.

          • turbooperator

            I know this because my wife is Costa Rican. And from the SJO site:”Debe cancelar el impuesto de salida del país, por un monto de $29. Aplica para nacionales y extranjeros, niños y adultos.” I have read in the spanish language news that the land exit tax also applies to all (nacionales y extranjeros) who exit. This is supposedly earmarked for border crossing facility improvements.

          • Ken Morris

            I just checked the site myself and sure enough you are correct. I was misinformed by the person I asked. (I asked right after I acquired residency and was surprised to still have to pay the exit tax. The clerk told me that I needed to have a Costa Rica passport to avoid the tax. Clearly the clerk was wrong.)

          • Marcel M. Pfister

            This is – of course – a heap of absolute nonsense. What does an exit tax levied by Costa Rica have to do with – of all places – North Korea and Cuba? You seem to be living in Lalaland.

          • Ken Morris

            One of the defining features of totalitarian regimes is that they forbid their subjects to emigrate. The USSR did this, as also do Cuba and North Korea. By contrast, so-called democratic countries permit anyone who wants to leave to leave.

            The nonsense question I ask from Lalaland is at what point an exit tax becomes an effective obstacle to emigration. Certainly $5 isn’t, but I suspect $10,000 would be. At issue is therefore the principle of a government levying any fee at all on merely leaving the country. To be sure, if the fee is earmarked for facilities necessary for boarder crossings, then it would not seem to be an arbitrary obstacle to emigration any more than the cost of a bus ticket is. However, a tax levied on merely exiting violates the norms adhered to by all so-called free countries.

            Or, you can look at it this way: Most slave systems have permitted slaves to buy their freedom. Since few slaves could afford to do that, they remained slaves. Is slavery a just system when it allows slaves a buyout provision?

            I suspect that as a matter of constitutional principle, forcing Ticos to pay the airport exit tax is not constitutional. I also suspect it violates various international covenants. Since I believe the $5 land exit tax is earmarked for border improvements, it probably is constitutional, although in practice it looks pretty slimy.

            Those of is in Lalaland pay attention to principle. You might want to yourself.

          • Marcel M. Pfister

            It’s a bloody USD29 departure tax levied by Costa Rica for anybody leaving the country by air. I don’t see any problem with that whatsoever. The USD5 exit tax levied by Nicaragua is completely differente and – poorly implemented.

          • Timothy Williams

            Marcel, just one correction. The $5 exit tax on the Nica border is being levied by Costa Rica, not Nicaragua.

            However because of the problems there, they have now temporarily suspended the requirement to prove that you have paid it until they resolve the problems. We will be publishing a follow up to that tomorrow (the fact that it is temporarily suspended at the Nica border).

  • Hydrangea

    Toolaman, are you a legal resident or just another border run rat? if you aren’t a legal resident, please STFU and go home. Please pay your exit tax first you cheap SOB.

    • Jonathan

      Racist much?

    • mhogan

      It is precisely this attitude that screams for a big hug … Around the neck … With a rope.

      • Andrew

        I see this term in other forums “buried”.
        Hydrangea: you were just buried!!!

    • toolman78

      Hello Hydrangea, if it actually interests you, I’m in a similar situation as Jimmy Kirk above. I currently run a business here in Costa Rica, pay my taxes, insurance for my employees and do my best to support my neighbors. So all in all I think I do my fair share to improve the community I live in. That’s part of why the nonsense like in the article above bothers me. When you want to see CR advance, and then you see the people running it pull a stupid stunt like crippling the border crossing for lack of foresight, I think getting a little angry about it is justified.Thanks for taking the time to share your insights though.

  • dark451

    From now on, i’ll let any illegal person in Costa Rica that they can’t leave without paying an exit visa. If they don’t have the money to leave, they will be deemed ‘legal’! LOL
    This surprises me. I thought Costa Rica had their things together. How did they manage their development?

    • toolman78

      “I thought Costa Rica had their things together.”
      I’m guessing you don’t live here?

      • dark451

        No. I live in Canada.
        It’s just that it appears Costa Rica’s government is a master at public relations. Everything always seems to be “working” just fine all the time.
        In the last few months or years, it just seems it’s losing a bit of its luster with the famous border road with Nicaragua, lack of political will to sit for a chat with Nicaragua, passing laws and collecting money at the border…yet not being ready for it; road repair does not seem to be happening. It just seems too third world.
        I expect third world from Nicaragua. I expected more from Costa Rica.

        • Marcel M. Pfister

          “Lack of politicial will to sit for a chat with Nicaragua”? You truly haven’t got a clue.

          • dark451

            I may not know everything. But your comment is a “fountain of knowledge”.
            The facts are that Chinchilla has refused all talks with Nicaragua; and is even encouraging her successor not to talk to Nicaragua.
            All she does is complain to international instances. Her strategy has not worked. Even Juan Manuel Santos, her “ally”, didnt even support her at the UN.
            If she had talks with Nicaragua and they failed, she would have a little bit more credibility. Right now, she is just tarnishing Costa Rica’s good reputation and miraculously making Daniel Ortega look good.
            Personally, I think this would have been over a long time ago had Oscar Arias or any other president been in power.

          • Marcel M. Pfister

            What’s there to discuss? Nicaragua has occupied Isla Calero illegally. Nicaragua is having border issues with Jamaica, Colombia, Panama and Costa Rica. If you think Daniel Ortega is “looking good” you either need new glasses or new binoculars.

          • Jonathan

            Who knew Inside Costa Rica was trolled by Canadians who’ve never been here? Weird.

          • dark451

            Hi Jonathan
            I’ve been there. I just don’t live there (yet).
            It is a very nice place. I would probably enjoy life alot in Costa Rica. :D

          • dark451

            Actually, Jamaica and Panama have no issues with Nicaragua. It was settled after bilateral discussions. The only issues left are between Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Colombia – states who don’t want to talk.

          • Marcel M. Pfister

            Wrong again. INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES. September 13, 2013: Panama joins Colombia, Costa Rica and jamaica in the Regional Fight with Nicaragua over Regional Waters. GLOBAL VOICES: Russian Warships in Nicaragua Rekindle Territorial Disputes.

          • dark451

            Dear Marcel, I’m not sure why it appears you see red when Nicaragua is mentionned. Here is a note from September 25 from the Panamanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs where they reached an agreement and the issue is no longer after having a chat. As you can see, talking works.


            Here is an article of Sept 20th from El Espectador, a Colombian newspaper, that says that Jamaica did not endorse politically the Colombian, Costa Rican and Panamanian position.


            Again, talking works. Whining doesnt.

          • Jim Obert

            Get your facts Straight, after that publication, Jamaica withdrew from the complaint, and the UN general assembly had an official agreement with Nicaragua and Panama. Colombia did not even bring up the issue as Chinchilla did, and probably does so because she is such an incompetent leader. The General assembly was AFTER the 13th of September. Not very smart there, so you might want to try again. And the ICJ ruled FOR Nicaragua in the Colombia dispute for the waters. Even the US is respecting this. Colombia is just pist b/c of the drug money and other income from the Caribbean.

  • Jimmy Kirk

    I can tell you from first hand experience it is not an easy chore to become a resident here. I have had the necessary paperwork on three different occasions to file but there always seems to be a problem. First time I was in the hospital after taking a spill on a motorbike due to the crappy roads here. Second time I had to wait for a new set of papers to arrive from the US to file and half of them got lost in the Costa Rica postal system, both of which caused the 6 month rule to apply to those two times. In case you are not familiar with this rule, it states that a birth certificate and background check must be obtained from your place of birth and residence, respectively, and they must be no older than six months. Once I did get everything in order, the lawyer that I was using mysteriously dissapeared so all the previous paperwork was gone also.

    End result I hired a new lawyer, got all the paperwork sent via Aerocasillas in order to be sure it got here and went to make application, but I still have to leave the country every three months if I want to drive the car that I bought here. Another of the wrinkles the new laws have created, a non cedula holder cannot obtain a legal drivers license now.

    I have been to both borders and the process is non uniform as to what is required when. The main problem with this last wrinkle is not the amount of money, but the lack of facility to pay this fee before putting it into play. Hopefully my residency will be approved soon and I can stop this nightmare of border crap. I own property here, am married to a local and have children, but do not want to take the risk of being deported for 10 years either.
    I made the choice to live here and the processes of doing business here are much different than in the US, the legal system is so slow that I could die before anything is resolved. Had a little problem with the registro over my son’s birth records, they had used my middle name as my last name which made his documents invalid, so it only took six months to get a clerical error corrected.

    With all the taxes and fees that are charged by the government, there should be a very smooth operation, but each time there is always a “problem with paperwork” and amazingly enough, $20.00 fixes the problem.
    Yes, there are many hands out at the borders and every other place a government office is.
    OK, off my soap box for now

    • expatin paradise

      How long have you been here? Your statement that “With all the taxes and fees that are charged by the government, there should be a very smooth operation” would suggest that you’re just off the banana boat. “Should be a smooth operation” is a clause that never applies to interaction with Costa Rican government.

      By the way, I went through document nightmares when trying for residency, too. In my case, on my second try, documents mysteriously from registered mail posted by a friend after he personally obtained my documents from the secretary of state’s office, and delivered (an empty envelope only) by Aerocasillas. Either the US mail or Aerocasillas screwed up (or stole my documents), so don’t be so quick to blame the CR correos.

      If you ever get residency, be sure to open an account with one of the national banks and change your money there at the counter, if that is a condition of your type of residency. I found out the hard way that documentation other than an official statement from a national bank doesn’t fly.

      The surname thing is a nuisance (some of my medical records are in my middle name), but we do the same thing in the US to Hispanic names, listing people in official records by their mother’s names.

      Some things you just have to get accustomed to when changing cultures.

      • Jimmy Kirk

        Been living here for three years now, so yes, I have become accustomed to the way things are done. I was relating a summation of the major things over the last three years. My residency is filed and hope to have it approved soon so I do not have to do the border shuffle anymore.

        Overall, I rate the lifestyle here very good after visiting Mexico, Panama and Nicaragua, I chose Costa Rica as my new home for many good reasons. I do help with support of my new family of relatives here as well as many neighbors that are in need. This is a place that the taxes collected should be used instead of lining the pockets of the political powers. With much of the people here living in poverty, it is shameful to see how they are treated, so I do what I can to be helpful even to the point of buying a lot of crap I do not need because that sale may feed a family of 6 or more for a week.

        Even though there are many things I would like to see changed within the infrastructure, the quality of life is great and most people are basically honest here.
        I did already obtain a bank account here and no problem with that part, so I have tried to anticipate and resolve any and all known issues beforehand. It is just the ones that change without notice that are irritating, such as the land exit fee, which I read was repealed until machines can be installed at the borders.
        Have a great day.

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