Monday, October 29, 2012

A Sandstorm Blows Through Cordoba

As New York City (my former home) braces for Hurricane Sandy, I have been experiencing an unexpected (but minor) sandstorm here in Cordoba. I'm told that this tends to happen when the southern winds blow north through the country.

It's a very interesting experience. Most motorcyclists and pedestrians find it difficult to see because the sand gets in their eyes.

If you're ever visiting Cordoba and you find yourself in the middle of a sandstorm, take shelter inside a store until it passes. If you choose to walk home then I recommend that you shield your eyes and keep your mouth closed.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dealing With Property And Other Forms Of Taxes In Argentina

Taxes are handled a little differently in Argentina in comparison to the United States. Argentineans don’t pay annual taxes based on earned income every year. The government collects taxes in different ways. Vehicles and Properties
Regardless of whether you’re done making payments on your car or home, you still have to pay monthly taxes.

There are two types of taxes:
·         Municipal
·         Provincial
You’re fine as long as the municipal and provincial taxes are paid for in the province you are residing in.
Other Types of Taxes
Taxes are automatically added to the final total of your store purchase, but you’re not likely to see how much you’ve been taxed on a credit card receipt. Taxes are also deducted from employee paychecks.

Tax Rate In Argentina
The tax rate is currently at 21 percent of any purchase, or bill for services rendered.

Who Controls The Taxes In Argentina?
AFIP. Similar to its American counterpart, the IRS, The AFIP controls the way that taxes are collected. They also ensure that Argentinean businesses are legit, registered, and report their tax earnings and make the appropriate payments to the provincial government.

The Downside To Not Collecting Annual Income Taxes
Some might say that the national debt in Argentina would be easier to manage if they adopted a similar practice of collecting annual income taxes like they do in the United States. Unfortunately, the current practice has led some provincial governments to collect taxes in other ways, such as handing out traffic tickets with excessive fines or raising the cost of bread or utilities. Then again, Argentineans get free healthcare and free higher education so it’s understandable that the government would find other ways of collecting taxes from the public.

Bankruptcy – The Risk Of Incurring Serious Debt In Argentina

In the U.S., bankruptcy is the only way out of serious financial debt, but you can’t do that in Argentina. If you open up a business and it fails, you’re responsible for the debt incurred. The same goes for personal debt like credit card, car payments, or utility bills. You simply can’t declare bankruptcy here.

If you fail to pay your debt, you could find yourself unable to leave the country until the debt is repaid. This depends on how big the debt is and how outstanding it. If you’re already out of the country when your bills become delinquent, you may run into problems when you re-enter the country.

Word of Advice
If you’re an expat and have become a resident or a citizen of Argentina, live within your means. Be careful about jumping into any business ventures. If you plan on opening up a business, have a back-up plan in case it fails. Be careful. Pay your dues. Know how taxes work in Argentina and how to pay them or you will be stripped to the bone.

A Tough Job Outlook For Expats In Argentina

I’m really frustrated by the fact that it's been months and I can’t find a job in Argentina! Most career opportunities are in the capital of Buenos Aires, but that’s not an option for me at this time.

Fortunately, I own my home so I don't have to worry about losing the roof over my head. But the main reason I want a job is so that I can buy food, pay my utilities and buy more furniture for my home. Many people I've spoken to have warned me that finding work here would be tough.

You can always work under the table, which they call "trabajo en negro". Freelance work may be your best option.

The most important thing you need to know about working in Argentina is that it’s not about your skills or educational background. It’s about who you know.

You'll also need the following to work here:
⦁ A DNI (if you're an Argentinean resident or citizen or have a work visa)
⦁ A visa
⦁ A CUIL number (equivalent to a social security number in the United States)

Owning Your Own Business May Be Your Only Hope
I've been advised by several people that the best way to earn money in Argentina is to open up a business. If you have the money to do this then I highly recommend it, but keep in mind that if your business flops, there is no form of government bail out (like bankruptcy).

If you're thinking of opening up a restaurant, do some marketing research first. There are dozens of restaurants that sell the same thing, like pizza, bread crumb sandwiches, lomitos, and burgers, in the same neighborhood. Half of those businesses fail within a year. Try bringing something unique to the area you're living in.

If food isn't your specialty, then try opening up a computer repair shop. Argentina is becoming more dependent on electronic gadgets day by day. Laptops and desktops require maintenance, here more than in the States. I've bought a couple of electronic accessories in Argentina that didn't last more than a month or two. So a computer repair center is something worth considering. 
How Gender And Age Discrimination Affect Argentine Job Outlook For Expats
I've been actively looking for work in the administrative field, which is the type of work I used to do in the States, but many posts have age and gender requirements.

Unfortunately, Argentine businesses can post job openings which require that you be a specific gender or a specific age, and it's perfectly legal. My personal experience with this type of discrimination occurred when I tried applying for the only two admin job posts I found on a website. The first job was perfect, but required that I be female. The second job was also perfect, but I had to be between the ages of 26 and 31, and I am 35 so that was a bust.

I'm starting to wonder if I will ever land a job here. I'm even considering going back to school. Maybe an opportunity will open up for me along the way.

Can Immigrants Get Deported From Argentina?

For nearly four months, I’ve been trying to get the FBI to send over a background check for my spouse, who is a born American citizen, but the FBI is picky when it comes to fingerprinting done in a foreign country. I’ve heard horror stories from other expats who have had their background check request rejected simply because there was a tiny smudge on the fingerprint card.

At this point, I knew there was no way I could get all the paperwork done successfully before my spouse's visa expired. So I went to the immigration center in Cordoba for suggestions on what to do. The first person we spoke to was a jerk who suggested that we pray. Then we spoke with another, much kinder immigration official who assured us that there is absolutely no deportation law in Argentina. She laughed when I told her that I feared that a white van would come to our house to take my spouse and deport him. She told me that Argentina is not the United States and they don't treat immigrants this way. The only time that Argentina would ever consider deporting someone who is illegal is if he or she commits a crime.

This was a great relief for us because it gave us more time to get all the paperwork from the United States done.

Please keep in mind that you are only given two visas (prorrogas) per entry to Argentina. After the second visa expires you are technically illegal and cannot work or study until you petition and are approved for residency or you leave the country and re-enter.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

STARBUCKS in Argentina - An Instant Cure For Homesickness

Where can an American expat go to when he’s feeling homesick? How about Starbucks?
I never thought I would find a gem like this in Cordoba but there it was … Starbucks. It’s located at Av Col√≥n 608 in the province of Cordoba. One look at that big green sign and I felt like I was home. In fact, once I was in there I had convinced myself I was back in NYC. It’s nothing personal against Argentina, which happens to be a beautiful country, but I do miss the U.S. sometimes.
All the products and menus at Starbucks are in English and the customer service rep was kind enough to speak to us in English as well. Yes, I can speak Castilian (Argentinean Spanish), but my spouse is still getting the hang of it and I’ll admit, I’m still being pig-headed about speaking anything but English when I’m out in the city.
I meant to order a Caramel Frappucino, but I ended up getting some kind of mango smoothie drink that I can’t remember the name of. The point is that when I sat there across the table from my spouse I felt genuine relief to my homesickness.

I could have stayed in there all day, but I had to get back to the real world and the new home which I belong to now, but it was fun while it lasted.