San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lawmakers propose increase in exit tax to fund Costa Rica's Olympic athletes

Lawmakers of the Legislative Commission on Childhood, Adolescence and Youth in a unanimous vote on Tuesday approved the drafting of a bill to increase from $29 to $33 the country’s exit tax in order to provide funds for the National Olympic Committee (CON).

Travelers leaving the country through international airports pay the exit tax that the Aviation Administration currently uses for improving air terminals.

Bill #19,468 was filed by National Liberation Party legislator Silvia Sánchez Venegas, who said the allocation of funds for the CON is an “imperative need” to improve the performance of top-level athletes at all competitions that are part of the Olympic cycle.

To become a law the bill must be voted on by the full Assembly. Sánchez has asked the executive branch to include it in the agenda of priority bills to be discussed during extraordinary legislative sessions that begin in December.

If the bill is not included in the agenda, it would have to wait to be added during the ordinary session next May.

CON President Henry Núñez said he is happy with the lawmakers’ vote, and “although resources for athletes are never sufficient,” he expects approval of the tax hike would add $8 million a year to their budget.

Núñez said he believes the commission’s unanimous vote is a good sign for the bill in anticipation of voting by the full Assembly.

Commission president Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, from the Costa Rican Renovation Party, said commission members would work to ensure the bill is signed into law as soon as possible.

“Tourism businesses will not go bankrupt from increasing the tax by ₡2,000 [$4],” he said. “This is a valid effort for our athletes to win more medals and elevate the country’s name.”

Businesses disagree

Costa Rica’s tourism sector did not welcome the news. National Tourism Chamber (CANATUR) President Pablo Abarca said the chamber does not oppose lawmakers’ efforts to help athletes and the National Olympic Committee, but he argued that the current proposal fails to offer a comprehensive solution.

Araya disagrees with the idea of taxing the tourism sector to finance another sector. He strongly opposed the statement that a $4 increase won’t hurt tourism businesses.

He also said the proposal is not based on any technical studies, and its approval would have a severe impact on the tourism sector.

“Costa Rica already is the most expensive country in the region, and sending out these kinds of messages will threaten all of the investment the country is currently making on international promotions, and it could lead to job losses,” Araya said.

CANATUR leaders are currently drafting a letter outlining the reasons for their opposition to the bill, which they intend to send to all 57 lawmakers in coming days, in advance of the bill’s discussion and voting in the full Assembly.

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Funny logic to have travelers (mainly foreign tourists) pay for this ‘con’, after 29 bugs for being scrutinized and allowed to leave. What’s next? Another 4$ for La Sele and Miss Universe participation?

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Bruce Hubert

Costa Ricas Olympic teams should be supported by the private sector like in the USA. Government tax dollars should not be used to fund sports. There are bigger priorities.

The money would be better utilized to build schools….

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Chris Garrett

I miss the Osa. But this bilk, scam, and rob the turistas has (for the last few years) and will keep me away from Costa Rica.

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I emailed this note to the reporter who wrote the story, and he suggested I post it here:

I read the Tico Times article about the proposed increase in the Costa Rica exit tax, aimed at increasing funding for the Olympic athlete program. My group of friends and relatives are considering what Central American country we will begin visiting after retiring. I have in fact been considering making an exploratory visit to Costa Rica within the next few months to see what it is like to spend time within the country. This proposal has made us pause and re-sonsider whether we really want Costa Rica to be that country.

It’s not that the extra $4 per person per exit is a huge amount of money. It is the ATTITUDE that the proposal exposes.

There is no question in my mind that training and equipping Olympic athletes is NOT something that should be the responsibility of visitors to your country. It is YOUR responsibility. By making us pay for your responsibilities instead of you paying for them, you are basically telling us that to you, we are “walking ATM machines” that can be assessed a new “visitor charge” anytime you see a Costa Rican need but don’t care to fund it properly yourselves.

This also unfortunately reinforces the impression that we have been getting from the travel books, websites, and blogs written by other visitors and expats, that Costa Ricans may take advantage of tourists and retirees by charging them more for goods and services than they charge other Costa Ricans.

In my opinion, this proposal to increase the exit tax will have very negative effects on your efforts to increase both tourism and expat retirement in your country. It may be a very foolish move to demand $4 more from each departing visitor when that visitor is willing to spend much greater amounts of money in your country, whether as a tourist or as a potential retiree, but decides to not do so because of the offensive attitude that this $4 tax represents.

Jim G

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pepe lopez

We’ve been footing the bill for this country for a while, this $4 is just another little bit more they can stick it to us, and if the tax is included in the tickets, why do we have to pay it again at the airport? Same shit, different day. Puda vida

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