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Costa Rica: Yearly Tax on Legal Entities Ruled Unconstitutional

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We have discussed the Yearly Tax on Legal Entities in several several different occasions.

This is a tax levied since 2012 on legal persons in Costa Rica (the prime examples being “sociedades anónimas” or corporations and limited liability companies), payable in January of every year. The tax is enforced by strict penalties that could even lead to dissolution of the delinquent entities.

However, in Decision No. 1241-2015 of January 28, 2015 the Costa Rican Constitutional Court ruled on a lawsuit brought against the law that has been pending since November 2012. As a result, the Tax on Legal Entities Law was partially declared unconstitutional and will cease to be effective as of 2016.

The decision has been controversial because despite the Court’s findings that the law is contrary to Costa Rica’s constitutional regime, it has chosen to maintain its effectiveness up to 2015. Ordinarily, any ruling of unconstitutionality has retroactive effects to a law’s date of effectiveness. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court has powers to decide otherwise, based on the potential fallout of the decision. In this particular case, a ruling of unconstitutionality since the effective date of the law would have forced Costa Rican authorities to reimburse any payments made under the law, which could harm public finances. Instead, the Court opted to maintain the tax’s effectiveness until the end of the year.

As a result, qualifying legal entities are still required to pay the tax during 2015. The penalties for lack of payment have been somewhat lessened in expectation of further clarification from the Court regarding the effects of the unconstitutionality ruling, which are still not fully clear. For instance, documents filed by delinquent entities before the National Registry are no longer automatically refused registration or recordal, but are suspended pending payment (thus maintaining an effective filing date that can constitute constructive notice to third parties).

Client alerts are meant solely for general information and should not be regarded as legal advice. If you would like additional information, please contact:

For more information:

Luis D. Acuña
tel. 00 (506) 2221-9058
LDAcuna@AcunaLegal.com