Duty Free Imports
The easiest way to import personal and household items is as luggage on your inbound flight to Costa Rica. Depending on the airline, you may be allowed up to 125 pounds of free luggage (two 50-pound bags and one 25-pound carry-on), plus additional bags, which may also be shipping boxes or plastic tubs that meet the dimension and weight requirements.
When bringing items in your suitcases, airport Customs officials will often let you pass without paying any taxes. To improve your chances of avoiding duties, always remove new items from their original packaging, and only carry one of each. For example, you probably won't have any problems bringing one mp3 player, one e-reader, one laptop, one digital camera and one cell phone in your carry-on, but if you import two digital cameras and two laptops, you may be taxed on the second item of each.
For big-ticket items, such as flat-screen TVs or cookware sets, always bring a copy of your original receipt. If you do not have the receipt, log onto the Internet and print out the description and price of the same or comparable model. The goal is to prove that the item in question is worth less than $500, since all tourists, residents and citizens are permitted to import duty-free one product up to $500 in value every six months. If a Customs official chooses to charge your under-$500 item with import duties, simply indicate that you would like to use your exemption; the official will stamp your passport with the exoneration, and you won't be charged.
If you're bringing down many items – more than will fit in two or three suitcases – print out an itemized list of each good and its used value. Estimate low but not artificially low – approximately the price you'd pay for each at a garage sale or an online classified site. When you arrive at the airport, don't present your itemized list unless asked about your imports, and resist the urge to explain yourself or speak Spanish to the Customs officials. Since most personal and household items are considered duty free, they likely won't charge you anything.
If Customs officials do need to charge you taxes, it will be very helpful to provide copies of your original receipts. Items in Costa Rica are more expensive to purchase new, and since duties are calculate based on the purchase price, you'll pay less if you can prove a lower starting value.
Sample Import Tax Rates:
Cell Phones: 13.00%
Clothing (used or new): 29.95%
Computers, desktop or laptop: 13.00%
Digital Cameras: 14.13%
mp3 Players: 42.97%
Video Cameras: 13.00%