Colombia

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Working in Colombia

Many might not have realized the impressive economic progress Colombia has made over the past few decades. After a brief but harsh recession, the nation has been able to grow year after year, and make the transition away from its former agricultural roots.
Expats in Colombia get taxed not only on their Colombian income.

Taxes for Expats

Taxation in Colombia is, luckily, a relatively straightforward affair for both citizens and expatriates. You are considered a Colombian resident (not citizen) for tax purposes if you have stayed in Colombia for more than 183 days a year, regardless of whether or not the stay was continuous.

The tax year follows the calendar year. Income tax rates for fiscal residents progress in three steps from 19% to 28%, to 33%. A perk of living in Colombia is that there is no inheritance tax. Keep in mind that your tax rate applies to your worldwide income as soon as you become a tax resident in Colombia. Expats who are not considered residents for fiscal matters will be taxed 35% on their Colombian income.

Colombia also has several double taxation treaties, meaning that nationals of these countries can claim tax relief if they have been Colombian tax residents for at least one year.

Social Security Contributions

You might be happy to learn that social security contributions for expats are relatively low — foreigners are not expected to pay into the pension fund, but can if they choose to. Up to 9% of your salary is payable to the social security system and this breaks down as follows:

  • 4% contribution to the healthcare scheme (mandatory, see our guide on living in Colombia for details on the system)
  • 4% contribution to the pension system (voluntary for expat employees)
  • 1–2% additional payment to the solidarity pension fund, depending on income (also voluntary for expats): employees who are earning more than four times the legal minimum wage (as of 2017, the minimum wage is 737,717 COP per month) must contribute an extra 1%.

Social security contributions are calculated on any income up to 25 times the legal minimum wage in Colombia, 737,717 COP per month, or roughly 246 USD per month at the time of writing in 2017.

Office Etiquette

To prepare for your interview with a potential Colombian employer or your first day at work, you should familiarize yourself with Colombian business etiquette. While there are some differences between the highlands and the lowlands, the following advice applies for most workplaces expatriates might find themselves in.

  • Unlike at home, punctuality is highly valued in the office. Try not to keep your colleagues waiting for you.
  • The dress code tends to be smart. This may vary from office to office, but when in doubt, go for a more conservative look. A formal greeting, such as a handshake, will be well received.
  • Hierarchy is important; address people in senior positions formally and by their title and last name.
  • Building positive business relationships always comes with a fair degree of small talk and questions about your background and family. If things go well, you might be invited to dinner; declining would be perceived as very rude, as would turning down any food when there.
  • Try to stay away from hot topics such as politics, and from stereotypes around violence and narcotrafficking that have influenced the way Colombia was perceived around the world for years. 
  • Don’t worry too much! Colombians are, generally speaking, warm and open, and you will get the hang of things very quickly.
  • As a country where women only gained the right to vote 60 years ago, Colombia still has a reputation for having a male-dominated political system and society. However, improvements are slowly being made, with Colombia’s Law on Quotas demanding that at least 30% of candidates in elections and 30% of highest government positions are filled by women. That said, it’s reported that some areas don’t fulfil this quota.   
  • 2011 saw the introduction of a law guaranteeing equal pay for men and women, however, once again this has not proved entirely successful in practice. One study showed that only 34% of women occupy senior level management positions and the National Statistics Office (DANE) reported that the gender wage gap in most sectors hovered at around 20%. Many women also do not enjoy equal pay due to the informal sector remaining unmonitored.
  • In Colombia, women are entitled to up to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and cannot be dismissed from a job during this time, or throughout the pregnancy. Men are allowed up to 4 days paternity leave, provided they are contributing to the social health system. If both parents contribute to the system, the father is entitled to 8 days.

Women in the Workplace

  • As a country where women only gained the right to vote 60 years ago, Colombia still has a reputation for having a male-dominated political system and society. However, improvements are slowly being made, with Colombia’s Law on Quotas demanding that at least 30% of candidates in elections and 30% of highest government positions are filled by women. That said, it’s reported that some areas don’t fulfil this quota.   
  • 2011 saw the introduction of a law guaranteeing equal pay for men and women, however, once again this has not proved entirely successful in practice. One study showed that only 34% of women occupy senior level management positions and the National Statistics Office (DANE) reported that the gender wage gap in most sectors hovered at around 20%. Many women also do not enjoy equal pay due to the informal sector remaining unmonitored.
  • In Colombia, women are entitled to up to 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and cannot be dismissed from a job during this time, or throughout the pregnancy. Men are allowed up to 4 days paternity leave, provided they are contributing to the social health system. If both parents contribute to the system, the father is entitled to 8 days.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Pablo Garcia Ramirez

"I was so lucky that a friend told me about InterNations before I came to Bogota. I had the chance to contact many expats there from home."

Michelle Guillemont

"I was a little bit afraid before moving to Colombia - a new language, security issues, no friends. InterNations helped me settle in, though. "

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