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Today, the Argentinian banking sector is well established, and expats will find that they can open up a bank account in pesos or dollars, as long as they can present the required identification documents.
There are expats who choose to leave their money in bank accounts in their home country, which may make a few aspects of living in Argentina slightly more complicated. Hefty taxes also apply when transferring money from an offshore account to a local account, so expats are advised to think carefully before doing this.
With a little bit of patience, it is completely possible for an expat to open a bank account in Argentina.
Money in Argentina
The official currency in Argentina is the Argentinian 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
Even though Argentina’s economy is notoriously unstable, the banks are doing well. This may be because banks are used to the instability and have begun shifting their models of operation to those of more orthodox countries (revenues based on lending and selling other financial products).
The largest local bank in Argentina is Banco de La Nación Argentina, although there are many others, including Grupo Financiero Galicia, Banco Patagonia, Banco Privincia, Banco CrediCoop. Citibank, HSBC and Santander are the biggest foreign banks operating in Argentina.
Banks are usually open for business from 10am till 3pm (depending on cities and seasons) and are closed on Saturday and Sunday. Most ATMs are open round the clock every day of the week. Expats should be prepared to queue whenever they enter a bank’s premises, and will most likely not find an English speaker working at the bank.
Opening a bank account
To open the equivalent of a checking account (cuenta correinte) in Argentina, expats will need a variety of documents, including a DNI (Documento Naciónal de Identidad), their passport, proof of residence, a CUIT number (business tax code), CUIL number (personal tax code) and AFIP (social security number), as well as money to put down as a deposit. These requirements vary from bank to bank, so expats are advised to consult individual branches for specific details. To open a savings account, the individual must be a permanent resident 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 3000 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 usually are 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 larger cities in Argentina, they can be found in shopping malls 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 run out of money.
ATMs also have a limit as to how much you can withdraw, that will depend on your debit/credit card, your bank and the country you are from (if using a foreign bank card). It can go from as low as 1,000 ARS to as much as 4,000 ARS. It is advisable to talk to the bank about withdrawal limits that may apply.
Taxes in Argentina
Expats will find that taxes in Argentina are an extensive and complex affair.
This South American country has no inheritance or gift 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 month. 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.