Property Taxes in Panama
When investing in a real estate in Panama, it is necessary to consider several factors and numbers in order to analyze if the purchase you want to make is profitable. This is why it is important to foreign investors to understand how the tax system works in Panama and what types of taxes must be paid when investing in real estate. There are three types of property taxes in Panama, which I will explain in detail below.
First of all, Panama does not have what is known in Germany as “Grunderwerbsteuer" (real estate purchase tax). That is to say, the fiscal code in Panama does not contain a tax that must be paid for the acquisition of a plot or lot of land. When buying a property it is the seller who must pay the transfer taxes. Nevertheless it is customary that the buyer pays the registration fees of the Public Registry and the notary fees.
Photo: www.pixabay // Steve Buissinne
What transfer taxes must be paid when selling a property?
At the time of selling a property, the Panamanian government charges the seller the following taxes: 2% transfer tax calculated based on the cadastral (registered) value "or" the capital gains value (calculated by the system) "or" the selling price. The highest of these values is the one the government chooses as the calculation basis for charging the tax. And then 3% on the cadastral (registered) value "or" the selling price (whichever is higher) as capital gains tax.
There are properties that pay annual taxes, others do not, some have exonerations, what does all this mean?
In the past all properties whose value exceeded $30,000 were obligated to pay a progressive percentage of taxes on the cadastral value of the property (annually). However, there were different options to request an exoneration on these annual taxes for a maximum period of 20 years. This no longer exists today. But still the tax office respects the exemptions already granted, and for this reason you will see different offers in the real estate market with valid exemptions.
Currently there is a new law where properties whose value is less than $120,000 do not pay taxes in Panama, as long as it is your primary residence. For properties with a cadastral value of $120,001 up to $250,000 the annual property tax rate is only 0.5%. Properties from $250,001 and above pay a rate of 0.7% (seven tenths of 1 percent).
Now, if we are talking about horizontal property, that is to say, I have an apartment, what taxes do I pay?
First of all, there are fixed expenses for the apartment that are calculated based on the registered square meters of construction, and from this measure the monthly maintenance fees that must be paid to the building’s administration is calculated. The maintenance fees must be paid on a monthly basis (you can also pay in advance if you wish) and never stop. The last reform of the law in 2020, made it very clear that for no reason it will be possible to stop paying the common maintenance fees since with these expenses the building exists and is maintained, that is to say as if it were a child's alimony.
There is also a real estate tax that is divided in two, i.e. the tax on the apartment and then on the coefficient of participation of the land on which the building was constructed.
It is important to mention that the payment of the (annual) property taxes is not included in the payment of the monthly maintenance fees. It is the responsibility of each co-owner to comply and pay their tax obligations for their apartment with the Panama tax office.
In order to have this information of how much you owe and if you are up to date in your tax obligations, it is advisable to process a user and password (called NIT) to have direct access to the electronic platform of the Panamanian tax office called "e-tax". This way you can check your current account statement, pay the corresponding taxes by credit card and even request a certificate of good standing, all of this can be done online. The NIT is also mandatory when selling your property in order to process the payment of transfer taxes and to obtain the documents requested by the notary for the closing of the sale.
What if I sell the shares of my company ("share deal") instead of the title of my property ("asset deal")?
Years ago the Panamanian government has regulated the sale of corporate shares in order to avoid the evasion of the transfer tax when selling a property. Now there is also a tax that must be paid if you have a corporation and this corporation owns a property and you sell the shares of your corporation (as a package).
As the owner of the shares the seller pays a tax of 5% of the sales value, but the payment must be made on his behalf, by the buyer and both will have the legal responsibility before the Panamanian tax office. In the past the sale of corporate shares was a very popular strategy used to optimize the transfer taxes when selling a property, however each case is unique and individual and requires prior analysis by the lawyer.
We will talk about this topic in the next blog, stay tuned!