Banking, Money and Taxes in Argentina
Expats will find that the experience of managing money and banking in Argentina is bogged down by oceans of paperwork and epic queues.
For this reason, and as the Argentinian banking system remains unstable, many expats choose to leave their money in bank accounts in their home country.
In another vein, hefty taxes apply when transferring money from an offshore account to a local account; thus expats are advised to think carefully about this action.
Nevertheless, it is possible for expats to open a bank account in Argentina, but they should be prepared to spend a long time unravelling red tape.
Money in Argentina
The official currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso (ARS), commonly referred to simply as the peso. The peso is divided into 100 centavos.
Notes: ARS 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100
Coins: ARS 1 and 2 and 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos
Banking in Argentina
Since Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001, confidence in the banks has been low; middle-class savers hide their money under the mattress or buy new cars and improve their houses. Even rich Argentineans send their money abroad to banks in Uruguay or the Caymans.
Those that do have bank accounts are treated to exorbitant bank charges, government taxes, high loan interest rates and low savings rates.
The largest local bank in Argentina is Banco de La Nación Argentina, although there are many others, including Banco de Cuyo, Banco Patagonia, Banco CrediCoop. Citibank, HSBC and Santander are the biggest foreign banks operating in Argentina.
Banking hours vary from summer (generally 7.30am to 12.30pm) to winter (8am to 1pm). Expats should be prepared to queue whenever they enter a bank’s premises, and should furthermore not expect to find an English speaker.
Opening a bank account
To open a bank account in Argentina, expats will need a variety of documents, including a DNI (Documento Naciónal de Identidad), their passport, a CUIT number (business tax code), CUIL number (personal tax code) and AFIP (social security number), as well as some money to initially deposit. These requirements vary from bank to bank, so expats are advised to consult individual branches for specific details.
Foreigners are usually not eligible to borrow money from banks in Argentina.
Using an offshore bank account
Paying money into an Argentinian account from an offshore source can become incredibly frustrating. Both the banks and the government charge a tax, the exchange rates are generally poor and it can take weeks for the money to actually arrive.
Withdrawing funds from a foreign account using an ATM in Argentina will incur heavy fees. Periodically, the amounts foreigners can withdraw are restricted, sometimes to as little as 300 ARS (50 USD) per day. Expats can usually leave their card in the machine and withdraw the limited amount up to four times; however, four separate transactions will be charged.
Many expats in Argentina prefer using Western Union to transfer money. This is efficient, but there are usually restrictions on the amounts that can be sent and received.
Almost anything in Argentina can be paid for in cuotas – usually comprising six payments. This includes supermarket food shopping.
Expats can pay in cuotas using credit and debit cards, unless they present a foreign registered card, in which case the payment has to be done immediately and in full. Expats using foreign cards need to produce identification, with a passport usually sufficing.
Argentinians have to present their DNI for all transactions paid for with cards. Very few people have standing orders or direct debits set up on their bank accounts. Most bills are paid in cash, so at certain times of the month, when payments are due, queues at banks, finance houses and Pago Facil (easy payment) outlets are long.
ATMs are plentiful in the big cities in Argentina, where they can be found in shopping galleries and the like. This is not the case in the smaller towns, where they are normally only on the bank premises in the centre of town.
ATMs are available 24 hours a day, but on certain days of the week, such as a Thursday or the day preceding a national holiday, expats may find long queues of people and there’s a chance the machine may have run out of money.
Taxes in Argentina
Expats will find that taxes in Argentina are an extensive and complex affair.
This South American country has no inheritance or capital gains tax, but there are high rates attached to everything else – income tax, personal asset taxes, transfer taxes and an exceptionally high VAT (Value Added Tax).
Expats planning on earning money in Argentina are advised to seek the guidance of an accountant with professional experience in the country.
Income tax in Argentina
Employers are responsible for dealing with the relevant paperwork regarding tax for their employees and usually make a single payment at the end of the year.
Self-employed individuals pay their taxes to the local tax office every two months. There are various allowances and deductions that can be taken into account; such as those for dependents, life insurances and funeral expenses.
Many people in Argentina 'work in the black', meaning illegally, in order to avoid paying their taxes. Employment taxes imposed on an employer are crippling, and expats may be surprised to find that it is common for even businessmen to go the ‘black’ route.
A non-resident's income may be subject to a withholding tax of 35 percent, calculated on presumed revenues. Expats should be aware that money paid into an Argentinian bank account from an offshore source may result in this deduction, so it is important to check on this before transferring large sums of foreign currency into the country.