Property taxes – Panama Real Estate

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Property taxes – Panama Real Estate

Property Taxes: Types

When you are thinking about retiring, the last thing you want to deal with are the details. But the devil is in the details, and one of the details you need to clearly understand is property taxes in Panama.  There are a number of property taxes in Panama, but the principal ones that you need to be aware of are:

  • Annual property tax
    • land tax
    • improvements tax – or tax exemptions
  • Transfer Tax (2%)
  • Capital Gains Tax

Annual Property Taxes – Land Tax & Improvements

Whether you own an apartment or a house, you need to know what taxes are going to be charged by the Panamanian DGI (Dirección General de Ingresos) each year. We recommend that before you buy, you ask the sellers for the tax statements so that you can see the history of what they have paid each year. You should also ask what is tax exempt and when the tax exemption runs out. As I said above, the annual property tax has two parts:

  1. land tax
  2. improvements tax or tax exemption

The land tax

There is a difference between owning a condo and owning a house. The property taxes are the following:

  • Condominium: you will pay 1% of your proportional value of the land under the building.  Say the land is worth $1,000,000 and there are 84 apartments in the building: you are responsible for $11,904.76 in land value. Your 1% per annum is: $119.05.  Whatever the value of your assigned piece of the land, your tax rate will always be 1%.
  • House – land taxes: This is a little more complicated! The first $30,000.00 in value is exempt from taxes. Then the following rates apply:
    • 1.75% = $30,000 < and up to $50,000.00
    • 1,95% = $50,000 < and up to $75,000.00
    • 2.1% anything over $75,000.00
    • So, if the land value of your property is $85,000.00 you will pay: $0.00 on the value between $0.00 to $30,000.00; 1.75% on $20,000.00; 1.95% on $25,000 and 2.1% on $10,000.00. Which is about $1,050.00 per annum in property taxes.

What you need to look out for is cases, which I have seen, where the previous owner, in order to get a reduction in 2005 or so on their capital gains tax, did a property appraisal and pushed the value of the land up over $250,000.00, and at these rates, the property taxes each year are about $4,500.00! This means that you will pay in April, August & December about $1,500.00 in property taxes.

Improvements Tax or Tax Exemptions

The other part of the equation in calculating your property taxes is the tax on the improvements. There are many properties that have a 20-year tax exemption on the improvements, and so for now you only have to pay the land taxes. But the questions to consider are:

  • Are the improvements exempt?
  • If so, when the tax exemption expire?
  • What is the tax rate after the exemption expires?

So, if you purchased an apartment in a building that was built in 1996, the 20-year tax exemption would already have ended and you would need to pay property taxes on the land and the apartment itself. That is why you find so many people prefer the new buildings, even though the older buildings are much more spacious and possibly better construction (depending on the building and the year of construction).

Sale of a Property: taxes due

When you go to sell a property, there are 2 taxes which need to be paid:

  1. Land transfer tax
  2. Capital Gainst tax

Land Transfer Tax:

The land transfer tax is based on 2% of the higher of the two values:

  • the tax basis value in the DGI system
  • the sale price value

The Tax Department always wins – they will collect on the higher value!

Capital Gains Tax:

The 2nd tax payable at the time of the sale is the Capital Gains Tax:  10% of the value of the gain.

BUT… and as everyone says, when you see the word “but” just ignore everything you heard before the word: the tax department requires you to prepay an estimated 3% tax on the value of the sale to cover your capital gains tax.

  • Your purchase price: $270,000.00
  • Your sale price: $320,000.00
  • Your gain: $50,000.00
  • 10% of the gain: $5,000.00
  • 3% value of the sale: $9,600.00

At the time of the sale, you will pay the tax department $9,600.00 in Capital Gains Tax.  As you look at this, you might think “that’s unfair!”, but your only option is to ensure that your lawyer does the paperwork right and requests a refund of the overpayment of the capital gains tax! This process is some 3-4 years long – and some clients simply walk away.  The Tax Department pockets the difference.

On the other hand, if you made a large gain, there is a box that you can tick, stating that this is your “final return” on the transaction, and that is the complete amount of capital gains tax that you owe. You should review these numbers carefully with your realtor or the lawyer that is handling the closing for you.

For more information regarding your property purchase or sale in Panama, please contact Joan Villanueva in our office.

Other Property Tax issues:

There are more issues to consider regarding property taxes, such as filing your Declaration of Improvements (if you just finished building a house on a lot), presenting a request for a tax exemption (if the builder did not request the exemption from the tax department), and other similar issues, but we will deal with them in another article.