VAT is applicable in the following cases:
- Sale of movable or immovable assets, except those expressly excluded.
- Sale or assignment of rights upon intangible assets, related exclusively with industrial property.
- Provision of services in Colombia or from abroad (if the beneficiary is located in Colombia), unless there is an exception available.
- Import of assets or goods that have not been expressly excluded.
- Operation, circulation, or sale of games of chance or gambling, except the lotteries or chance games operated online.
This tax is not applicable to the sale of vehicles and other fixed assets to be sold on a regular basis on behalf of third parties, as well as aeroplanes.
Services provided from abroad will be taxed through a reverse-charge mechanism, hence the beneficiary of the service will be liable to file the corresponding return and pay the tax before the Colombian Tax Authority if the beneficiary is registered for VAT.
Nevertheless, Law 1819 of 2016 established that non-resident service providers rendering services from abroad must register for VAT purposes in Colombia when they sell VATable services to customers who are not registered for VAT purposes in Colombia. Registration for VAT purposes does not necessarily mean the triggering of a PE. Such obligation has been complied with by several foreign taxpayers, which requested a Colombian Tax ID during 2018 and 2019 and paid for VAT withheld (100% of the VAT rate for 2018: 19%) during the bimonthly periods starting from 1 July 2018.
Nowadays, the registration process requires the foreign provider to obtain a Tax ID for the enterprise and for the legal representative, as well as a digital signature for the former. Additionally, a physical address in Colombian and an economic activity code needs to be provided.
Complementing the before mentioned, the foreign taxpayer can opt for allowing the financial entity, in cases where the payment is performed by using a debit/credit card, to act as withholding agent (WHT system will presumably be in force since February 2020), provided that the following requirements are fulfilled:
|Type of service||
|Taxable base||The value recorded on the invoice sent to the Colombian customer. When not defined in Colombian pesos (COP), the base will be the result of converting the value invoiced in other currency to Colombian pesos, using the foreign exchange rate of the day in which the reported VAT is going to be paid (the VAT return filing date and the payment date should be the same to avoid ineffective allegations).|
|Withholding agent||The financial entity that issued the debit/credit card used by the Colombian customer to acquire the service. As well any other intermediary facilitating the effective payment to the service provider and any other entity designated by the Tax Office.|
|Entities allowed to use this alternative||
|Entities required to file the return||
On the realm of digital services provided from abroad, Law 2010 of 2018 identifies distant maintenance of equipment and programs as a VATable operation.
Additionally, there are some acts that are considered as a sale, which are the following:
- All acts implying the transference of domain, freely or onerously, of movable or immovable assets and intangible assets related with industrial property.
- Withdrawing movable or immovable assets from the inventory in order to use them or to use them to improve fixed assets recognised by the taxpayer within its equity.
- Incorporation of movable or immovable goods, incorporation of non-taxed services, or transformation of taxed and untaxed goods, when those have been created, built, elaborated, or processed by the same entity or individual performing the incorporation or transformation.
The Colombian VAT is based on a credit-debit system throughout the entire chain of a business. However, certain products are only taxed at the manufacturer level (one-phase VAT). For purposes of VAT calculation, the VAT payer may credit the VAT (input) paid to vendors (certain limitations apply) against any VAT (output) collected from customers.
The general VAT rate is 19%. However, certain services and goods are taxed at 5% and 0%.
The following are the most significant goods and services taxed at 5%:
- Corn for industrial use and other grains (look for the list of Section 468-1 of the Colombian Tax Code [CTC])
- Raw oil from palm trees, sunflowers, palm trees almond, soy, corn, among others.
- Vegetal material, waste or residues, sub-products, and pellets used for nurturing animals.
- Agricultural equipment pertaining to the sub tariff 82.01.
- Electric or hybrid vehicles destined for diverse uses (further consideration must be given towards the list of Section 468-1 of the CTC).
The following are the most significant goods and services taxed at 0%:
- Meat, fresh eggs, and dairy products.
- Vegetal or animal biofuel destined to be used in diesel engines nationally produced to be mixed with Aceite Combustible para Motor (ACPM or motor oil).
- Services to be exported (some requirements are needed).
- Internet services for low to mid-income residential customers.
- Manufactured goods to be exported.
Under current law, there are VAT exemptions available for the following items, among others:
- Equipment and materials for the construction, installation, assembly, and operation of environmental monitoring and control systems.
- Importation of machinery and equipment, which is not produced in the country, for recycling and processing of waste and refuse.
- Regular imports by major exporters of industrial equipment, which is not produced in the country, for the transformation of raw material.
- Freight transportation.
- Public transportation of passengers in the national territory by water or land.
- Transportation of gas and hydrocarbons.
- Interest and other financial income from credit operations.
- Public utilities.
VAT withholding on the purchase of goods and services for most domestic transactions is 15% of the tax due (effective rate 2.85%).
Filing frequency depends on taxpayer’s annual gross revenue as of 31 December of the previous taxable year. For businesses with annual revenue equal to or higher than 92,000 tax value units (TVU) (approximately COP 3 billion), the frequency is bimonthly. If annual revenue is not in excess of TVU 92,000, the filing frequency is every four months.
No VAT filings are required for periods where no inputs or outputs exist.
Additionally, the tax reform of 2016 allows enterprises, branches, or businesses where the main activity is the exploration of hydrocarbons to file a VAT return from the moment in which the enterprise initiates its exploration activity in order to recognise the input VAT paid in acquisition or import of goods and services to be invested in the exploration phase and to be taken as part of the cost of development of their amortisable assets or investments in offshore projects. The balances in favour generated via VAT return during the exploration phases can be claimed during the next year of its generation (exploitation phase).
The regime is divided into two, identified as VAT responsible agents and non-responsible agents.
VAT paid to vendors is creditable even if paid at rates higher than those at which taxable sales are made. Where a receivable arises above that credit, a refund will be available upon request, subject to certain circumstances (e.g. zero-rate sales or taxed sales).
VAT paid on capital assets can be credited against income tax
VAT paid while building or buying a fixed asset, and all services needed to use such asset, can be credited against income tax of the year in which the VAT is being effectively paid.
A national consumption tax is levied on the following select services and goods:
- Mobile phone services at 4%.
- Certain vehicles, aircraft, and other goods at 8% or at 16%.
- Restaurant and cafeteria services at 8%, alongside catering services, which is included in this category while excluded for VAT.
Consumption tax cannot be credited against VAT. Consequently, the tax will be treated as a higher cost of the acquired asset or product and will be treated as a deductible cost for income tax purposes.
Imports, according to customs rules, consist of the entry of goods to the ’national customs territory’ from the rest of the world, or from an FTZ, with the purpose of remaining permanently or temporarily in it for the achievement of a specific purpose.
As a general rule, the importation processes before the Colombian Internal Revenue and Customs Service (DIAN) can be carried out only by users registered in the Customs Information System.
According to the Harmonized System of Designation and Coding of Goods approved by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), imported goods are classified into subentries composed of six digits. Also, two digits are added, which are for exclusive use of the Andean Community (CAN), and two final digits, which correspond to the digits for use of Colombia. The customs subentry or harmonized tariff schedule (HTS) code, which is the ten-digit result, is exposed in the Colombian Customs Tariff, which is governed by Decree 2153 of 2016 and its amendments, which also reflects the applicable tariff of each duty. VAT, which is also part of the customs duties, is regulated in the Colombian Tax Code.
The general VAT rate for the importation of goods is 19%, and the customs duties range between 0% and 20%. However, in some cases, they may be higher, depending on HTS Code.
There are some excise taxes for the consumption of beer and its derivatives, wine, liquor and its derivatives, and cigarettes and similar products.
Tax rates are defined by law, although the tax is collected by regional authorities:
- Liquor: Between 20% and 40%.
- Beer and similar: Between 20% and 48%.
- Cigarettes and tobacco: 55%.
The property tax is a municipal tax that is imposed annually on real estate property located in urban, suburban, or rural areas. It is levied on both improved and unimproved real estate; consequently, the taxpayers of this tax are the owners or holders of the real estate property.
The taxable base of this tax is the current cadastral value of the property, as adjusted for inflation. In some cities, such as Bogotá, the taxable base is the value of the property as appraised by the taxpayer directly.
Property tax rates depend upon the nature and usage of the property, and generally range between 0.5% and 1.2%.
This tax is fully deductible for CIT purposes, provided the same has a causal nexus with the income-producing activity of the taxpayer (e.g. where the tax is paid on rental property).
The stamp tax rate is 0%.
Capital gains tax
The capital gains tax rate is 10%.
Financial transactions tax
The financial transactions tax is a permanent tax on financial transactions, the collection of which is the responsibility of regulated financial institutions and the Central Bank (Banco de la República).
The tax rate is 0.4%, and the taxable event is the carrying out of financial transactions that involve the disposal of resources deposited in checking or savings accounts as well as in deposit accounts with Banco de la República and the issuance of cashier’s checks.
50% of the total tax paid is deductible for CIT purposes, regardless of whether or not the transactions have a causal nexus with the income-producing activity of the taxpayer.
The law establishes a series of operations and transactions that are exempted from this tax.
Payroll taxes and social security contributions
There are three major payroll taxes and contributions.
- General pensions system.
- Health social security system.
- General system of professional risks.
The basis for contributions is determined by the monthly salary (excluding non-salary items) earned by the employee, which may not be, for ordinary salaried employees, less than the minimum legal monthly salary (COP 877,803 in FY 2020) and may not exceed 25 minimum legal monthly salaries (COP 21,945,075 in FY 2020).
For employees who earn an integral salary, the basis for pension contributions will be the lower of 25 minimum legal monthly salaries or 70% of such integral salary.
Amounts of contributions
In the two regimes (public and private), the amounts of contributions are currently 28.5% of the monthly salary.
Out of this percentage, 75% (approximately 20.5% of the monthly salary) must be borne by the employer and 25% (approximately 8% of the monthly salary) must be borne by the employee.
However, employees who earn more than four minimum legal monthly salaries must contribute an additional 1%, which will be destined to the pension solidarity fund, created by law to cover the risks of workers with scarce resources. Also, employees who earn more than 16 minimum monthly salaries must contribute an additional percentage (between 0.2% and 1%), depending on the amount of salary received.
For professional risks (Aportes de Riesgos Profesionales), the employer must pay a contribution ranging from 0.522% to 6.96% of the monthly salary, which is an insurance that covers risks of labour-related illnesses or accidents, permanent disability, death, and incapacity also derived from the employee's activity.
In addition, for employees with salaries higher than ten minimum monthly wages, employers must pay a payroll tax of 9% on salary items only, the basis of which is 100% for ordinary salaried employees and 70% for integral salaried employees.
Plastic bags tax
The triggering event for the plastic bags tax is the use of plastic bags, and the collections must be made by the commercial products to be carried in the bags. Since 2020 onwards, each plastic bag will cost COP 50.
This tax cannot be treated as a cost, deduction, or credit for any other tax.
Medicinal cannabis tax
Medicinal cannabis tax is applicable to the sale, freely or onerously, of transformed products based on psychoactive or non-psychoactive cannabis. The rate to be applied is 16%, and this tax cannot be credited against VAT.
Industry and trade tax
The industry and trade tax is a municipal tax that is imposed on revenue obtained from the exercise of industrial, commercial, or service activities in any Colombian municipal jurisdiction. It can be viewed as a special form of a turnover tax.
The industry and trade tax rates are determined by each municipality, and, as a rule, they range between 0.2% and 1%. 50% of this tax can be credit against CIT when it is effectively paid or, at the election of the taxpayer, 100% is a deductible expense (FY 2020). Since 2022 onwards, industry and trade tax can be treated as a 100% credit against CIT liability.