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

November 11, 2015
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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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