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Panama - Importing a Vehicle
A car that is being imported into the country should be transported in a container by itself. The cost of a container is usually expensive in itself though this depends on the size and the country that you are shipping from, but could run into thousands of dollars. Importing a car should also be reconsidered if the car is rare or expensive, as it is rare that a mechanic in Panama will be able to work on it and spare parts would need to be imported specially.
An expat cannot bring a vehicle into the country if they are not the real owner of the car. The car must be in your own name and you must own it outright. You cannot bring in a vehicle that is still under finance as legally it still belongs in part to the finance company.
Those who have moved to Panama under one of the retirement programmes have the right to import a car from abroad every two years without the need to pay duty. Import taxes have recently been recalculated and there are different tax levels depending upon the type of vehicle.
All passenger cars such as family cars will have different rates depending upon the value of the car. Cars that are valued at below $8000 incur a tax of 15%. Cars that are valued below $20,000 and above $8,000 will be taxed at a rate of 18%. 23% tax is applied to cars valued between $20,000 and $25,000 and 25% is applied to cars valued at more than that.
Until the end of 2012 there will be no import tax applied to electric cars, hybrid cars and other environmentally friendly models, but after that will incur a 5% tax. Any type of cargo vehicle will be taxed at 10% and other commercial vehicles will be taxed at 12%. Vehicles imported for use as taxis or buses will be taxed at 10%, the same rate that is applied to motorcycles that have an engine size larger than 125cc. Other vehicles that have an engine size more than 75cc such as boats will also be taxed at 10%.
Cars that are older than 12 months will all occur a standard fee of $750, up to 24 months is a fee of $1000 and cars older than 36 months will have a fee of $1500 applied to them. In addition it is necessary to pay the Goods and Service tax of 7%.
With all of these fees to pay it is not surprising that the general advice is to avoid importing a car. It should also be taken into consideration that the customs will apply their own value to the car, regardless of what you paid for it in your home country. Customs will apply a higher value to the vehicle than you might expect.
The process for the customs department assigning a value to your vehicle can be a long process, so it may be some time before you are able to pay the charges and get customs clearance for your vehicle, particularly if there is any delay with the relevant paperwork.
As with all other goods that expats import into Panama, the recipient must have the legal right to live in the country. In order to get items through customs you will need to produce documentation that proves that you have this right and produce your passport, which should be valid and have at least six months left to run.
In order to register a vehicle with the Panamanian authorities you need to contact the Registro Unico Vehicular. This government department has a number of offices located in the Panama City District. You will need to take with you proof of importation, proof of ownership and proof that you are legally living in the country. The car will need to pass an inspection before registration. Cars need to be inspected each year (as for the UK MOT) and for this you need to also have valid insurance on the vehicle.
Registro Unico Vehicular
Tel: +(507) 502-0547; +(507) 502-0548; +(507) 502-0549; +(507) 502-0550
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