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The 2018 Marchamo Explained (Q&A)

This is the last week of the week for more the owners of more than 1.3 million vehicles on the road to pay the Marchamo, the annual circulation permit.

The deadline for payment is December 31, that is to day vehicles on the road without the 2018 Marchamo starting January 1 risk a fine of ¢51,000 colones.

Mario Calderon, chief of the Polica de Transito (Traffic Police) reminded that in January of this year, some 46,000 traffic tickets were issued to drivers of vehicles without their 2017 Marchamo.

“It is important that people pay their marchamo, to be up to date with the obligations of owning a vehicle and part of the Traffic Law,” said Calderón.

Do all vehicles pay the Marchamo?

All vehicles that are registered in the Registro Nacional (Land Registry), have to pay the Marchamo. Even the vehicles that are newly purchased, and still do not have an assigned license plate, have to pay.  Even all vehicles that not on the road, but continue being registered.

Not only the cars pay, any other vehicle: motorcycle, moped, ATV, trucks (big or small), or whatever, if it’s registered,  you pay for it.

How is the Marchamo different than taxes?

It isn’t. A major component of the Marchamo is a property tax on the vehicle that is payable each year. The property tax is based on the “valor fiscal” (tax value) of the vehicle, thus the higher the value the higher the annual tax. The Ministerio de Hacienda (Ministry of Finance) updates values each year, taking into accoun depreciation. Important the tax value is not the actual value of the vehicle in the market.

The Marchamo also included the obligatory insurance and payments to support a number of institutions. The Instituto Nacional de Seguros (INS) – the state insurer – is the government agency responsible for the collection of the Marchamo.

Where can the 2018 Marchamo be paid?

Payment for the 2018 Marchamo can be made at any bank (state and private), Servimas found in Masxmemos and Walmart stores, a number of retailers such as Gollo, Importadora Monge, the post office (Correos de Costa Rica), or if you prefer, directly in the INS. Payment can also be made online.

If payment is made at a point of collection (POC), you will receive a sticker and circulation permit. Each permit is printed at the time of payment. Banks typically have a special window solely for the payment of the Marchamo. If payment is online with your bank, each institution has their delivery process that could be picking up the sticker at the local branch or delivery to your home or office by courier.

What documents are needed to pay the Marchamo?

Usually with identification, ie cedula or passport for non-residents and the license plate number of the vehicle is enough. But it is recommended to have on hand the last Marchamo paid and/or the title of the vehicle. Some POC have strange ways of dealing with the process…better to be prepared than have to make line again.

The vehicle inspection or (RITEVE)

To pay the Marchamo the vehicle will need to be up-to-date with the vehicle inspection (Riteve). For banks and other POC to issue the Marchamo the INS system must have a record of the inspection. No Riteve, No Marchamo. Simple.

If down to the last few days for the inspection, remember that it takes at least 24 hours for the Riteve to pass on the information to the INS. That is, if you have your vehicle inspected today, most likely it won’t be until Thursday morning that the INS system will show the update and banks and POC can issue the Marchamo. If it doesn’t show, you will need to visit an INS office with the Riteve to get updated, which will show in the system within 24 hours.

What happens if the license plate is not in the system?

Sometimes it happens with the newly imported vehicles, are not in the Marchamo system. The vehicle has already left customs, duty is paid, the vehicle is circulating, but it does not yet have a license plate issued by the Registro (Registry).

In this case, best is to go directly to the neared INS office. Standing in line at the bank or POC and being denied the Marchamo is not the best use of your time.

When in doubt…

If you are in doubt that your vehicle is not showing up on the INS Marchamo list, like the foregoing for example, you can check online here. The link will also give you the total and detailed payment information.

IMPORTANT: Where do you place the sticker?

There is no specific location that you must place the sticker, other that it must be in a visible location on the INSIDE of the windshield.  For practicality, the most common place for the sticker is in the upper right corner of the passenger side of the windshield, next to the RITEVE and REGISTRO stickers.

The Marchamo card, along with the title and Riteve, should be kept in the glove compartment for easy access.

Removing the old sticker is easy. Years ago, the INS in one of its ill-fated experiments, used a sticker that was next to impossible to remove. The institution said it was for security, that became a headache each year. One year it took me close to 30 minutes to clean the windshield of the residue of the old sticker. Now, start with a corner, start peeling at an agle gently, and in seconds the old sticker is gone and ready for new.

What happens if you don’t pay the Marchamo before Jan 1?

As of January 1, all outstanding Marchamos will start to incur late fees and interest and the traffic police (transitos) can issue a fine and/or two the vehicle, or worse, confiscate the license plate.

Starting Jan. 1, it is customary for the Traffic Police to be vigilant of the Marchamo. In some areas, like downtown San Jose, Transitos station themselves along the Avenda 2 ready for no payers. It always amazes me people driving in the Transito infested area of the San Jose aiport without their Marchamo. Or Riteve.

The traffic fine for the (non paid) Marchamo is ¢51,000 colones, plus costs. This fine can be issued every time you get stopped, though it is my understanding from Transito contact that only one ticket will be issued within a zone. That is to say, if you are in downtown San Jose and get a ticket, most likely other Transito in the downtown San Jose core will respect it (for the day), but, it does not mean that a Transito in a neighbouring area will respect it. So, you could get several tickets on the same day as you travel from one area to another. However, I am daring to say that if you get a ticket today, good chance you won’t get another no matter where you get stopped that day, just show your first ticket. But, guarantee you will get another fine tomorrow and the day after that and so on.

What are the fines for not paying the Marchamo after Dec. 31?

The Marchamo is made up of a number of items, ie insurance, property tax, parking fines, and so on. Each has a different penalty for late payment. Here are some examples:

  • Transito: outstanding amounts are subject to late penalties and interest that accumulate with each passing day. After Jan. 1 the INS online Marchamo consult will show the payment if made that day.
  • INS: The obligatory insurance will apply a fine for each day that is delayed in paying. The fine is the basic passive rate of the BCCR plus five percent.
  • Traffic Fines accumulate at 36% annual interest.
  • Property: Hacienda (Tax Department) will apply 12% annual interest, plus 10% fine every month.
  • Parking:a fine of 2% per month, up to 24% per year.

Can the 2018 Marchamo (cost) be appealed?

Yes, the cost of the Marchamo can be appleaed. But usually it is not very profitable to do so.
The institutions never resolve the appeals on time, and less in the months of November / December. In the end one always ends up paying the original amount to be able to circulate in January.

The most common and resolvable appeal is the tax value of the vehicle that is used to calculate the property tax payable. Typically any won appeals are forward loaded, that is will apply to the following year’s Marchamo, rarely – I  have never heard of it happening – is it applied to past Marchamos, paid or unpaid.

In Costa Rica anything is appealable, but the system is so that most will give up an appeal or even try.  The only thing worth appealing are traffic fines and tax value, if done correctly you can save lots of money. The rest of, not worth the bother. The INS online Marchamo consult will detail all the costs and the tax value of the vehicle. Your Marchamo (in the glove box) also indicates all the costs and vehicle tax value. Compare it to past Marchamos (I keep all mine together) and you should see depreciation. But don’t be surprised if not, or even an increase. Again, the government uses that value to apply the tax rate to calculate your annual payment. Same rate, but higher value, equals what? For the earlier example, my ‘1972’ plated vehicle, a 1975 Landcruiser still has a tax value of ¢430,000 colones. !Tome chichi! (toe-may chee-chee), a Spanish idiom that can mean, among other things, take that and…!

If you do want to appeal, here is the link: Auto Gestión de Hacienda.

Can one file an action of unconstitutionality against the Marchamo?

Yes, but nothing new, just ask perennial presidential candidate Otto Guevara. Many have already tried to put a ‘salacuartazo’ (a Costa Rican term to filing an action before the Constitutional Court or Sala IV) to the Marchamo. All were rejected. The laws that are behind the Marchamo are solid, and so far there have been found no unconstitutionality with the law.

But, since filing is free and can be made by anyone, even literally scribbled on a napkin, you can try. But most likely it will be rejected by the clerk of the Court, not for the presentation or lack of lawyer filing the appeal, but the reality that the law is solid.