I have experience buying a couple of computers and a tablet in Colombia and I have found it is possible to buy either one for similar prices to what can be found in the United States.
Early this year, I was able to buy an Apple iMac at Falabella in the San Diego mall in Medellín for a price that was less than the price listed on Apple’s website at the time for the same model.
I also bought an Apple MacBook Pro recently in an iShop store for a price that was only about $50 more than the price listed on Apple’s website. In addition, I was able to buy an iPad mini last year for about the same price as listed on Apple’s website.
In Colombia, personal computers and laptop computers are not subject to Colombia’s 16 percent IVA tax (value added tax) if they do not exceed the price of 2,253,770 pesos ($1,092 at exchange rate of 2,064 pesos per USD) for 2014.
Tablets are also not subject to the 16 percent IVA tax if they do not exceed the price of 1,181,855 pesos ($573) for 2014.
The exchange rate also fluctuates so if the U.S. dollar strengthens, stores in Colombia do not necessarily immediately adjust prices higher of computers and tablets that are priced in Colombian pesos.
Colombia has also been putting place free trade agreements with several countries, which has helped reduce the costs of electronics in Colombia over the past several years.
Colombia Adjusts Price Limits Annually
The above price limits for computers and tablets for avoiding the IVA tax in Colombia for computers and tablets are for 2014 and are adjusted each year.
This avoidance of IVA tax for computers and tablets was established in 2012 under Colombian Law 1607 under Article 38.
The maximums are based on a multiple of Unidad de Valor Tributario (UVT), which is a tax value unit. The computer price limit for avoiding IVA tax is established at 82 x UVT and for tablets the limit is set at 43 x UVT.
UVT in 2014 is set to 27,485 pesos. UVT is adjusted each year based on the inflation between the months of October to October for the prior period.
Where to Buy a Computer or Tablet in Colombia
When buying a computer or tablet in Colombia you have many options, with several listed here.
Falabella also has stores located in Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Cali, Cartagena and Pereira. Falabella frequently has sales listed on its website and you can sometimes buy for cheaper on their website and pick up products in the store.
These two retailers have many locations in each of the big cities in Colombia. Both Exito and Jumbo frequently also have sales.
Alkomprar is like a small Best Buy selling televisions, computers, appliances and other electronics and they frequently have sales. They sell Apple and other brand computers and tablets.
Alkomprar also has stores located in several cities including Apartadó, Barrancabermeja, Bucaramanga, Cali, Ibaque, Pereira and Rionegro.
In Colombia, you can also find iShop stores that specialize in Apple products.
In Medellín, you can also buy many brands of computers and tablets in the many shops found in Monterrey, Medellín’s technology mall.
The Bottom Line
It is possible to find computers and tablets for sale in Colombia for similar prices that can be found in the United States.
I believe that Colombia has taken the right approach to not tax personal computers and tablets to help keep prices lower to make it easier for Colombians to afford them.
Several other countries in Latin America tax computers and tablets. When I was in Perú last year, computers in stores looked to cost at least 30 percent higher than in Colombia.
When I was in Chile last year, I found that computers cost roughly 10 percent higher than in Colombia. And in Brazil, computers and tablets can cost more than double what they cost in the United States due to very high taxes.
I was in Brazil in April this year and was surprised to see that iMacs in a store there were more than double the cost listed on Apple’s website in the states. For example, an iMac cost about $4,300 in Brazil vs. $1,999 in the states for the same model listed on Apple’s website at the time.
I also saw a 16GB iPad Mini with retina and WiFi that cost $680 vs. $299 in the United States at the time. I also saw a 64GB iPhone 5S with a crazy price of $1,637.
From 1999 to the present, the Brazilian government has tried several times to enable cheap computers for the masses. But these efforts have foundered in a sea of red tape, a dysfunctional tax system, political infighting, and pricing that is still out of reach for many.
This is why I have seen many computers, tablets and phones in carry-on bags on flights from Colombia to Brazil. Brazilians can buy computers and tablets and other technology items much cheaper in Colombia.