TICO BULL – Here is another idiotproof change gone terribly wrong: the direct collection of the airport tax by the airlines in Costa Rica.

The departure tax counter at the San José airport.
The departure tax counter at the San José airport.

Over a month ago it was announced that on December 3 (2014), yesterday, the US$29 departure at the San José and Liberia airports would be included in the cost of the air ticket.

Perfect, for it meant no more lines at the airport tax counter, a savings of between 10 and 20 minutes, especially for the early morning flights when passenger volume is greatest. It also meant not having to have that extra cash on hand.

Many have taken to paying the extra $5 charged at some hotels just to avoid the line. Or like the friend who visits Costa Rica often, his first rule of business in the country, after checking in to this hotel and unpacking, is head to the bank to pay the tax.

So, the direct collection is a welcome change, a change that affects some two million people a year that use the international airports.

But, in true “Tico” style, the change is not going so simple.

While we (the news media) were telling the world about the change, in reality, nothing had changed.

All the news sources Wednesday morning made reference to the change, no more lines to pay the airport tax. But, by the afternoon we started to learn the reality, yes, the lines will continue for a few months more, as we were told by the president of the airline association in Costa Rica.

You see, as Mario Zamora explained, the tax collection by the airlines is voluntary and are not required to make the change; that only 5 of the 16 airlines that operate out of Costa Rica have actually signed a deal with Bancredito to deposit the collection; and  since it is voluntary, the airlines themselves will decide when (and I assume, if) they will start collecting.

Now, just imagine the thousands of confused passengers, the majority foreigners, who will have yet another bonehead story to tell about Costa Rica.

Come on, can’t we get just one thing right? Does everything have to be made so difficult? How hard can it be?

The simple truth is that there are just too many cooks stirring the pot and no one to take responsibility, not only in this case, but in everything that is done in the country.

In this case there is Aeris, the manager of the airport; Aviación Civin (Civil Aviation) that licenses airlines and air regulations; the Ministerio de Hacienda (Ministry of Finance), the sole beneficiary of the tax; the Bancredito, the semi-state bank that collects the tax and remits to the state coffers, making a commission on each transaction; the airlines; the airline association; the janitor who cleans the toilets at the airport; and many, many others working the system.

Pura Vida, Mae1



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