Monday, October 29, 2012

A Sandstorm Blows Through Cordoba, Argentina

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. Hopefully, this is a rare occurrence. I'm still getting used to the fact that it's getting warmer when it should be getting cooler in October.

If you're ever visiting Cordoba and you find yourself in the middle of a sandstorm, take shelter inside a store until it passes. It won't take long, and it's certainly not much of a threat unless you get so much dust in your eyes that you wander into oncoming traffic. 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 Taxes in Argentina

Taxes are handled a little differently in Argentina in comparison to the United States. Argentinians don’t pay annual taxes based on earned income every year. The government collects taxes in different ways.

Property Taxes 
Even if you’re done making payments on your home, you still have to pay monthly taxes. 

There are two types of taxes:
  • Municipal
  • Provincial 
An Argentine accountant will tell you that you're technically supposed to pay National taxes too, which are taxes paid to the Argentine government, but according to my research, people here don't do this. So, you'll be fine as long as you pay the municipal and provincial taxes for your property.

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 just like in the States. 

If you decide to work as a freelancer or in "negro," which is the Argentine term for working under the table, you'll want to become a monotributo. Essentially, you have to pay the AFIP (The Argentine version of the IRS) 10 percent of whatever you make per month.  

Vehicle Taxes 
Like the property taxes, you're required to pay the municipal and provincial taxes as well, even if you've paid your vehicle in full.

Tax Rates In Argentina 
The sales tax rate is currently at 21 percent on any purchases, or bill for services rendered. The personal income tax rate is at 35 percent, and the corporate tax rate is approximately 35 percent.

Who Controls The Taxes In Argentina? 
Similar to its American counterpart, the IRS, The AFIP controls the way that taxes are collected. They also ensure that Argentine 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 food, and utilities. Then again, Argentinians get free health care and free higher education so it’s understandable that the government would find other ways of collecting taxes from the public. 

Bankruptcy and the Risk of Incurring 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 is. 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 or buying properties. 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 could find yourself stripped to the bone.

Consult An Accountant 
Your best bet would be to hire an accountant. They can assess you better than any lawyer in Argentina. In fact, when it comes to understanding taxes, and laws concerning the AFIP (Argentina's version of the IRS), an accountant is your best shot. 

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?

Whenever anyone decides to stay in a foreign country for a lengthy amount of time, their biggest concern may be whether or not they'll get deported when their visa runs out. Now, as an Argentine-American, I don't have to worry about any issues with Argentine immigration, however, my spouse is a different story. 

For nearly four months, I’ve been trying to get an FBI background check for my spouse, who is a natural born American citizen, but the FBI is picky when it comes to fingerprinting done in a foreign country. As I've mentioned in a previous post, even the slightest smudge on the fingerprint card can get your background check request denied.

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 consider praying. 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.  

Why Moving To Argentina With A Criminal Record Can Be Bad 
The immigration rep explained to me that in some instances, tourists who travel to Argentina may be denied entry into the country if they have a criminal record. But I'm assuming that unless you bit someone's ear off, and ended up on international news, like Mike Tyson, you probably won't have any issues. But still, it's something to keep in mind when you travel.

I know I've said this before, but just to be on the safe side, I'd like to remind anyone who is considering coming here that you are only given two visas (prorrogas) per entry to Argentina. After the second visa expires, you are technically illegal and cannot work, until you petition for residency, or leave the country and re-enter. 

Not having to worry about my spouse being deported from Argentina was a great relief for both of us because it gave us more time to get all the paperwork done. I'll keep everyone posted on how it all works out in the near future.