Costa Rica Real Estate Blog

6 Tax Tips That Every American Expat in Costa Rica Should Know

Tax Tips you should know before you move to Costa Rica

According to the recent statistics, Costa Rica is one of the best countries to live in. It ranks on top positions when it comes to the happiest and greenest places. The tropical paradise combines magnificent nature and sustainable development, while its economy shows considerable expansion.

If you are one of those lucky people that have the chance to live and work there, you should be aware of certain tax legislation that can affect your income status. Here are some tips that will help you go smoothly through the process.

1.     Mark Your Calendar

You should remember that you have to file for tax return every year U.S. and Costa Rica. The major differences between the two countries are their tax years. In U.S. the period covers the months from January to December, while the returns for US expats are due June 15. You can ask for 4 month extension. On the other hand, in Costa Rica the tax year starts in October and ends in September.  


Flush the paper down the toilet in Costa Rica

by Ivo Henfling

Flush the paper down the toilet in Costa RicaOnce in a while, people who visit me in my office, ask if they can use the restroom. Some, who have been staying in an older hotel or Bed & Breakfast or live in a rural location, open the door of my restroom, peek in and ask “can I flush the paper”?

For an outsider, that is a very weird question. For an old Costa Rica hand like me, it’s one of those things that gives me a chance to show off that my bathroom is built to the latest standards of decency. If you read on, you will understand why this weird or even shocking question is being asked after a peek into the bathroom.

When I moved to Costa Rica, quite a while ago, I wondered why everyone had paper basket next to the toilet. At the time, pedal flip waste baskets didn’t exist, so everyone had a regular open waste paper basket in the bathroom with a plastic supermarket shopping bag in it.

Poco Cielo Estates in Atenas - an affordable one story solution at your fingertips

by Ivo Henfling

Poco Cielo Estates - AtenasCheck out this new unique garden community in an out of town location in Atenas with me, a special place for special people. Poco Cielo Estates in Atenas just started construction and everybody is talking about it already.

Everywhere we look for new construction in Costa Rica, we find new 2-story townhouses and condo buildings for sale. I have counted over 60 new gated communities being built by Costa Rica real estate developers, just on the west side of San Jose.  All those townhouses are built for the local market, to local standards and local customs. They’re mostly cookie-cutter two-story homes with no views, no garden space and built on top of the neighbor. They’re built for the new generations who don’t have time to spend outdoors and enjoy their home. They’re mostly in the $200,000 price range and have a high condo fee. Atenas real estate now offers a new option.

Poco Cielo Estates is different. Poco Cielo Estates is being built to YOUR needs and not the new generation’s needs. 

There is no Black Friday in Costa Rica real estate yet

by Ivo Henfling

There is no Black Friday in Costa Rica real estate yetWho would have guessed that we have Black Friday in Costa Rica now too? Last Friday, I saw no Black Friday signs on any Costa Rica real estate offices. I have asked a couple of sellers but they didn’t think I was serious. Or they weren’t motivated enough.

Maybe next year we will find sellers more willing to give a Black Friday 30 – 50% deduction on their property. I will do so on my real estate commission if the sellers cooperate too. So watch out for our newsletter in November 2015!

Most businesses in Costa Rica call it that: Black Friday, few call it Viernes Negro. That’s how we are becoming gringolized now in Costa Rica. You’ll find a zillion advertising boards, signs and other marketing materials in English. Not to make it easier for you but because it sounds fancier than it does in Spanish.

Same sex couples in Costa Rica can now insure each other through CAJA

by Ivo Henfling

Same-sex couples in Costa Rica now Caja insured

Although Costa Rica is way behind on a few human right issues like the “in vitro” case, the CAJA has been able to make a huge change in their rules and regulations. 

On November 19, 2014, the CAJA (Social Security system in Costa Rica) has approved the proposal to reform article 10 of the Health Insurance regulation that changes the concept of partnership. With this change, partners of the same sex are included in the same conditions as heterosexual partners have.

This change is a huge advantage to gay couples who plan to move to Costa Rica or are already living here. By Costarican immigration law, every foreigner who wants to be a Costa Rica resident needs to be registered at the CAJA showing his/her own income and each has to make the monthly CAJA payment. Once this change is fully approved, not having to pay CAJA for two constitutes a huge saving.

Ever heard of Christopher Howard’s famous Live in Costa Rica tours?

by Ivo Henfling

Too many property buyers end up running all over the country without having a clue where to purchase a vacation home or retirement home in Costa Rica.

You have heard friends or family talk about how wonderful Costa Rica is and wouldn’t it be great to own a 2nd home or vacation home there? Or imagine buying your retirement home in that exotic country that is only a few hours away from your family?

Unfortunately, many don’t know where to get started and the venture becomes a blur. Imagine dreaming about living in Florida. But where would you buy a home in Florida? Maybe you’d buy on the South Florida Atlantic Coast or on the North Florida Atlantic Coast? Or you might think that the Florida Panhandle or the Florida Gulf Coast give you better options?


Sidewalks in Costa Rica are different

by Ivo Henfling

Sidewalks in Costa Rica are differentA sidewalk in Costa Rica? What’s that, a sidewalk? Who needs a sidewalk anyway? Costaricans don’t use sidewalks, even if they have one. 

Costaricans walk on the road, mostly for lack of sidewalks or sidewalks with too many obstacles. A few weeks ago, I wrote about obstacles on the roads of Costa Rica and this blog is all about obstacles you might find when walking on a sidewalk. You will find lamp posts, trees, power posts, advertising signs, billboards, fences, garages and the most incredible objects cross your path on a side walk in Costa Rica.  I have been in many cities in the US where they don’t have sidewalks either, because people don’t walk, they drive. But in Costa Rica, many people walk and jog and walk the dog. If you are in a wheelchair or you want to the baby in the stroller, you're in for a treat.

Walking in Costa Rica is not an easy task and if you plan to practice jogging, think twice. Escazu, where I live for example as well as many other communities in Costa Rica, has no sidewalks on more than half the streets. To have space for a sidewalk, you need planning. And planning is not what they do well in Costa Rica

Try tango, wine and bife de chorizo in Costa Rica

by Ivo Henfling

Aqui Es, an Argentinian steakhouse in San JoseI had never heard of this Argentinian restaurant in San Jose, though I had driven past it many times. I don’t go to San Jose that often anymore, but it looks like the city is becoming a good place for great restaurants again. One in a while, when I find a good restaurant that is worth writing about, I will tell you all about it here.

Last time we went to an Argentinian restaurant was to La Esquina de Buenos Aires, where we had great food and a lovely evening. This time, our friends suggested going to Restaurante Aqui Es, which means “Here it is”.

The restaurant is really easy to find, it is 100 meters south of Subway restaurant on Paseo Colon. You can either park on the street, where there is a guachiman or half a block further south is a 24/7 parking lot. If you are not used to Tico addresses, turn onto Paseo Colon from Sabana Park, take a 2nd right (at Subway) and you’ll see it at the end of the block on the left. Reservations at phone 2221-5727.

Costa Rica property tax

by Ivo Henfling

Costa Rica property taxCosta Rica property tax or “impuesto sobre los Bienes Inmuebles” is calculated over the registered value of your property in the municipality where the property is located.

The percentage of the annual property tax is 0,25%, as regulated by Law 7509.

Costa Rica property tax runs from the 1st of January until the 31st of December of each year and is paid quarterly. In most municipalities you can request the annual amount in February and pay the whole year with a small discount, depending on the municipality where your property is located.

In Costa Rica you will not get a notice from the government that your property tax is due, like you do in many other countries. YOU have the obligation to know when to pay.

Road Obstacles when driving in Costa Rica

by Ivo Henfling

Road obstacles when driving in Costa RicaDriving in Costa Rica can be overwhelming when you first arrive. I compare it to driving in Paris, Rome or Madrid, any Latin American city in Europe. It’s mainly the lack of discipline that turns roads into a madhouse, especial at peak hours. We all want to get to our destination as soon as possible, even if we have to break all the rules simultaneously if we have to. We don’t pay any attention to road signs and road markings; this is the wild, wild west for anyone not used to drive in Costa Rica. 

Costaricans are very nice and easy going people, but once they hold a steering wheel in their hands, they’ll go nuts. Since they are always running late, which we call Tico Time, they try to recover lost time on the road. Doing so, they will do anything that is not allowed, no matter how crazy it sounds.

Now, don’t run scared now, if you follow my articles, you will be aware of many of the obstacles you will find, the weird actions that some drivers take and the mistakes made by road planners. In no time, you will be either a careful driver or as crazy as the locals are when driving a car.