Despite having one of the largest economies in Central America, Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The distribution of income is hugely unequal with over half of Guatemalans living below the poverty line. Many Guatemalans have left the country; they typically go to Mexico, both legally and illegally, in search of work.
Agriculture makes up 13.5% of the GDP of Guatemala and accounts for two fifths of exports. It is estimated that between 30 and 50% of the labor force works in the agricultural sector and the main crops are coffee, sugar, and bananas. Guatemala is also the number one producer and exporter of cardamom worldwide.
Manufacturing makes up another proportion of the GDP and is dominated by food processing and assembly houses known as maquila factories where materials are imported, assembled into products, and exported again.
The main trade partner of Guatemala is the United States of America from where a second stream of income also comes. Remittances from the large expatriate community of Guatemalans in America constitute the highest single source of foreign income for the country, equivalent to one tenth of the GDP.
More recently, tourism has played a role, with visitors coming to see Lake Atitlan in the Highlands and discover the Mayan history and ruins.
Around 85% of the GDP comes from the private sector.
Work permits in Guatemala are supplied for two categories of people: expats who have a Guatemalan spouse or children, for which a number of requirements need to be met, or those who have been offered a job. For the former, the requirements include a written offer of employment, a residency or temporary visa, police records, marriage or birth certificate and a written request to the Ministry of Labor. For the latter, the application for a work permit is expected to be submitted by the prospective employer.
Residents and non-residents are only taxed on income earned within Guatemala. For expats living in Guatemala, it's important to note that fiscal residents are defined by the following criteria: they spend more than 183 days in Guatemala, even if not consecutively, the center of their economic interests is located in the country, or they are diplomats with residence on assignment in Guatemala.
Income that can be taxed includes employment income, whether self-employed or not, and income from investments. Outside of deductions, income is taxed at the following rates: 0-300,000 GTQ is taxed at 5%. 300,000 GTQ or more is taxed at an immediate fixed sum of 15,000 for the first 300,000 GTQ as well as 7% on the remainder.
Capital gains are taxed at a flat rate of 10% and include movable and immovable assets and lottery winnings.