For decades, Costa Rica has had policies in place aimed at attracting international business, and to say that those policies were successful would be an understatement. One of the ways the Central American country has attracted international businesses large and small is for a company to operate in a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica. Free Trade Zones (FTZs) offer a host of tax and import duty exemptions, making them highly lucrative places to do business.
What kind of companies qualify to operate in a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica? And what types of tax benefits do they enjoy?
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Company in a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica: Industries found in the country’s FTZs
- Aerospace engineering
- Automotive parts manufacturing
- Consumer electronics
- Electronic components assembly
- Machine repair/maintenance
- Medical devices
- Metal work
- Renewable energy
- Software development
There are a total of 48 FTZs in Costa Rica. Most are large industrial parks on sprawling plots of land that are located near Costa Rica’s main international airport, one of the country’s sea ports, or in close proximity to the capital city San José. FTZs can be operated by both public and private entities.
Merchandise of every description may be held in FTZs, so if you are not in the business of the industries listed above, fear not – for companies that want to be in a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica, there may be a niche-FTZ out there that cater to your particular industry.
Furthermore, Costa Rica just passed legislation allowing international companies that work outside an FTZ, but within the Greater Metropolitan Area (GMA) around San José can apply to be categorized as a “Free Trade Zone” company. Companies operating both outside an FTZ and the GMA may also apply to receive FTZ status, so long as they meet all the requirements.
To find out if your business qualifies for operating in an FTZ, it’s best to consult legal representation in Costa Rica.
Benefits of operating a company in a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Free Trade Zone Regime grants beneficiary companies the widest range of benefits currently available in the country.
- 100 percent exemption on import duties on raw materials, machine components and other goods
- Full exemption on corporate income tax
- 100 percent income tax exemption for an eight-to-10-year period
- Tax exemptions on domestic purchases of goods and services
- 100 percent exemption on export taxes, local sales tax and VAT
- No restrictions on capital/profit repatriation or foreign currency management
- Expedited on-site customs clearance
- Possibility to sell to exporters within Costa Rica
- Et cetera
FTZs are overseen by the export organization Procomer, which is part of the Costa Rican Ministry of Foreign Trade. Their Free Zone Regime Guide spells out all the rules, regulations, minimum requirements and prohibited activities that must be adhered to for a company to be in a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica.
Types of companies permitted to operate in a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica
- Trading companies are permitted, as long as they do not produce goods, but rather simply manipulate, repackage, or redistribute non-traditional products for export.
- Companies that provide services to people or companies domiciled in Costa Rica, abroad or to other companies in an FTZ.
- FTZ park administrators, and/or companies that are dedicated to the administration of parks and office spaces, etc., for other companies operating in an FTZ.
- Manufacturers that transform raw material into finished or semi-finished products.
Requirements for companies in Free Trade Zones in Costa Rica
- A minimum investment requirement of between $100,000 USD and $500,000 USD depending on the company’s location and type of economic activity.
- Minimum of $10 million USD investment for commercial activity deemed to be a ‘megaproject,’ regardless of the location.
- Manufacturing companies require maintaining a minimum of at least 200 employees on the payroll at the start of productive operations. Megaprojects must maintain at least 100 employees on the payroll.
- All companies keep detailed and accurate records of the operations of the company related to the goods they produce or handle, as required by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Finance.
- Payment of monthly fee to the Foreign Trade Agency of Costa Rica, starting at $200 USD and going up, according to the type of company operating in an FTZ.
- Companies submit an annual report proving that the entity is fulfilling all the rules and regulations outlined in the Free Trade Zone Regime Guide.
Commercial activity prohibited from operating in Costa Rica’s FTZs
- Mining extraction
- Exploration or extraction of hydrocarbons
- Production or commercialization of weapons and ammunition containing depleted uranium
- Companies that are dedicated to the production or commercialization of any type of weapons
- Companies that are dedicated to the generation of electrical energy, unless the generation is for self-consumption
- Banking, financial and insurance entities
- Natural or legal persons dedicated to providing professional services
Biz Latin Hub can help companies enter a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica
At Biz Latin Hub, we provide integrated market entry and back-office services throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, with offices in San José, Costa Rica, as well as over a dozen other major cities in the region. We also have trusted partners in many other markets.
Our unrivalled reach means we are ideally placed to support multi-jurisdiction market entries and cross border operations.
As well as knowledge about companies entering a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica, our portfolio of services includes hiring & PEO accounting & taxation, company formation, and corporate legal services.
Contact us today to find out more about how we can assist you in finding top tech talent, or otherwise do business in Latin America and the Caribbean.
If this article about companies entering a Free Trade Zone in Costa Rica was of interest to you, check out the rest of our coverage of the region. Or read about our team and expert authors.