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A Simple and Fair Tax System in Costa Rica? 

by Diego Salto

Published: September, 2013

Submission: November, 2013


The Nation published the result of a survey that basically asked two specific issues : (i) how easy (or clear) you think the tax system? and (ii) what is the main reason why some people evade taxes? Any analysis of the tax system should take into account an absolute truth: no one likes to pay taxes . As we have discussed on other occasions ... a person can understand why you pay taxes, but like ... or want to pay ... mmmm ... I do not think: that's another thing.

Therefore, any questions regarding the tax issue will always have a bias in their response. Keeping distances logical to ask out of a debate in the Courts do you believe that the murderer is a bad person? The answer can not simply isolated from the context, that is, it can never be the wording of the response as a result. This is exactly what happens with any questions about the tax system. dislikes paying taxes and of course there will always be an impression that the tax system is unfair and complex ... occurs in Costa Rica, as the Nation-review but also occurs in more developed tax systems like the U.S. or the Scandinavians, to give two examples.

Therefore, the input that gets your survey Nation must come from the hand of a deeper complementary analysis , as performed in 2002 by the Comptroller General of the Republic , who, by way of "white paper" - published a study important analytical in due course on the Costa Rican tax system. Chapter 7 of the book, prepared by Carlos Sojo and called Tax Culture , is a good example of reading technique you should be tracking this survey.

Now, is it really our tax system complex and not simple? Of course you do, and of course not .

On one hand, you do have to take into consideration that a tax system should always seek the simplicity ... but structure a tax system is not easy. There social, economic, legal, accounting, international and many others. Can you simplify a game of chess? Probably a player could explain it, but that does not mean everyone-especially those who do not practice or study chess-we come to understand all movements. 's taxation is complex, and within that complexity can try to simplify as much as possible, but will not be easy because it involves many disciplines. This is precisely one of the main reasons why it is not possible fiscal analysis "sole". In other words, taxation has a certain complexity it is important to analyze jointly by economists, accountants, lawyers and many other professionals.

Now, you tell me that this is so precisely because the system is complex ... and then we simplify it. Indeed it is a vicious circle. The complexity has often been a consequence of trying to give equity to the system ... ie generate different rules for different cases (a fairer deal, we would say), which generates little uniformity and hence complexity .

And here comes the other component: Is our system fair? Leaving aside the conceptual problems (what is just and for whom?), here we are basically referring to whether the tax burden is distributed equitably among all ... and here not have to be an expert to know that the answer is negative .

Consider that in Costa Rica there is not necessarily high tax burden and low tax burden, as it always is an analysis that depends on who we compare. Costa Rica you have a tax burden is unevenly distributed: those who pay more are willing to contribute or little chance to defraud, and do not pay or underpay a number of players in our economy ... who evoke all possible excuse possible to justify their actions (no streets, politicians steal the money, etc). These are the ones in the United States called "free riders", which translates to the "free riders or riders", ie are those who enjoy the system but do not contribute to it.

In short: a good supply of the Nation, which again contributes to the debate that we are about to begin (or resume): Costa Rica must conduct a tax reform process?

The answer can be as long or developed as you like, but consider that a quick and summarized version is: If necessary a reform whenever (i) is normatively modernize the General Sales Tax to make it a tax , modernize the Income Tax and distortion eliminate abusive that the system is currently in favor of the administration to the detriment of the rights of the taxpayer, (ii) is widely reform the state apparatus to regulate excessive and unnecessary spending and (iii) No any rate increases .

A system of income and expenses well structured collection allow adequate level without following milking the same cows as always.


Diego Jump van der Laat . AFC Tax Partner. He has served as a tax consultant and lecturer in tax law. Currently involved in the Financial and Tax columnist and teaches the course in Tax Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Costa Rica. Is president of the IFA Costa Rica, country representative of the International Fiscal Association (IFA), the tax-related organization largest and most influential in the world. A PhD in Tax Law from the University of Seville (Spain). It was listed by Latin Lawyer Magazine (2003) as one of the five month tax advisors Central recommended by Chambers & Partners in recent years as one of the most recommended tax advisors in Costa Rica.

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