Argentine Congress passed comprehensive tax reform
In its commitment to modernizing the tax system, but also with an eye on monitoring the fiscal deficit, the Argentine Congress passed on December 27, 2017 the tax reform proposed by the Executive Branch, which became effective starting January 1, 2018 (the “Argentine Tax Reform”). The reform introduced several amendments to the Argentine tax system, including, among others, the following ones:
Withholding tax on dividend distributions
The Argentine Tax Reform’s principal change is a corporate income tax rate reduction in two phases. For fiscal years starting on or after Jan 1, 2018 until Dec 31, 2019, the corporate income tax rate would be reduced from the current 35% rate to 30%; going-forward, the tax rate would be further reduced to 25%.
This measure will be offset by the introduction of a withholding tax on dividend distributions and branch profit remittances at rates of 7% (while the CIT is 30%) and 13% going forward. Thus, the combined rate on dividend/profit distributions would remain around the current 35% rate, as Argentina did not levy a withholding tax on dividends or branch profits since it abolished the 10% rate in 2016. In addition, the Argentine Tax Reform abolished for profits generated as from FY starting on or after Jan 1, 2018, the so-called equalization tax a withholding tax levied at a 35% rate on dividend distributions in excess of tax earnings which would remain applicable for the stock of non-distributed E&P as of Dec 31, 2017.
The Argentine Tax Reform includes,among others, the following measures:
- Individuals will be taxed on both the sale and yields of (a) sovereign bonds and (b) corporate bonds issued in an IPO. The tax will be levied at a 5% rate if the bonds are issued in Argentina without indexation clause or 15% if they are issued in foreign currency or in Argentine pesos with an indexation clause. Before this reform was passed, individuals were exempted from tax on this type of income.
- Individuals, including non-residents, continue to be exempted from tax on capital gains arising from the sale of shares in publicly-traded companies if the shares are traded in the local Stock Exchange. In case of non-residents capital gains as well as yields deriving from Argentine sovereign and corporate bonds issued in an IPO remain exempt. However, yields and capital gains derived from specific securities issued by the Argentine Central Bank (LEBACs) are not benefited from this exemption.
- Indirect transfers of Argentine assets (including shares) will be taxable, provided that (a) the value of the Argentine assets exceed 30% of the transaction’s overall value, and (b) the equity interest sold (in the foreign entity) exceeds 10%. The tax will also be due if any of these thresholds were met during the 12-month period prior to the sale. The indirect transfer of Argentine assets will only be subject to tax if said assets are acquired after January 1, 2018. Also, transactions involving indirect transfers of Argentine assets within the same economic group would not trigger taxation provided the requirements to be set by regulations are met.
- Change in CFC rules with full attraction of passive income obtained directly and/or indirectly through a chain of controlled companies provided those companies' income is more than 50% passive and are subject to a tax lower than the 75% of the Argentine income tax rate, among other conditions.
- With respect to VAT, the Argentine Tax Reform establishes a new taxable event for ‘digital transactions’ (e.g., digital services, hosting, on-line technical support, software services, Internet services, etc.). Starting January 1, 2018, as a general rule, these services will be subject to Argentine VAT at a 21% rate if they are supplied by a non-resident entity to an Argentine customer and there is an effective use in Argentina.
- The Argentine Tax reform also provides for a monthly exemption from Employers’ social contributions for the first 12,000 Argentine Pesos per employee. The change will be implemented gradually over a five-year period (from ARG 2,400 in 2018 to ARG 12,000 in 2022 and after).
- Additionally, Employers’ social contributions (except social health) will be progressively modified from current combined 17% - 21% to a 19.5% rate over a five-year period.
- Negotiations with the Provinces are also envisioned to accomplish the public commitment of reducing Provincial taxes, such as the stamp tax (0.75% in 2019 with gradual reductions until 2022) and turnover tax (mostly for industries and transportation activities, maximum rate for resale would be 5%).