Argentina imposes tight restrictions on cross-border e-commerce

Argentina imposes tight restrictions on cross-border e-commerce

Argentina’s government has introduced new restrictions limiting citizens to two purchases of goods from foreign e-commerce websites each year. And, the Administration of Public Revenue (AFIP) has also set a value limit that means consumers will be able to buy only $25 worth of goods from websites abroad each year.

Argentinians looking to buy more than this amount will have to register with the government as importers, thereby complying with the country’s import regulations, the General Import Regime.

The new controls published yesterday in the country’s Official Gazette aim to reduce the amount of currency leaking out of the country’s troubled economy.

As well as registering as importers, consumers buying more from abroad than the two-item, $25 limit will face a 50% import tax on anything they buy, including shipping costs.

Consumers buying more than their limit of goods will not be able to have items delivered to their home, or even to a post office for collection — they will have to pick up items direct from customs facilities.

And, cross-border online shoppers will have to submit a sworn statement or affidavit to the government — stating what has been purchased, attaching a printed receipt and including a tracking number — before items can be removed from customs.

“Optimise traceability”

The head of the AFIP, Ricardo Echegaray, who signed the resolution into law yesterday, said the new measures were being implemented “in order to optimise traceability of transactions”.

However, the new regulations implemented yesterday do suggest that the government will issue a list of items that can be purchased from abroad without restriction. “The Directorate General of Customs shall prepare for consideration, a list of goods that will be exempted from this rule,” said the AFIP resolution, adding that the list will at some point be made public on its website.

The new restrictions appear to target items shipped into Argentina by postal operators or official couriers for delivery by the country’s universal postal service provider, Correo Argentino, potentially allowing private sector couriers to get around the restrictions.

The AFIP explained yesterday: “Individuals who purchase goods from foreign suppliers, who enter the country by mail or through official Postal Service Providers/Courier shall select the Form Number 4550/T (Purchases from foreign suppliers) and complete the same with details on the acquisition. The filing of the affidavit will be held prior to the withdrawal or receipt of goods by the purchaser.”

Analysts said the new rules also appear to target only the sale of material goods from abroad, not services or electronic applications such as computer software. It would mean the restrictions apply to the purchase of physical books from a website like Amazon, but not if Argentine consumers were buying e-books for their Kindle.

Cross-border online shopping is beginning to soar in Argentina, with about 1.5m Argentinians purchasing items from foreign websites last year, about double the number shopping cross-border in 2012.

The government was already beginning to tighten controls on cross-border shopping last year, when a 35% import tax was imposed on purchases made with foreign credit cards.

The South American country’s foreign currency reserves recently fell to their lowest level for seven years. Argentina has been using its currency reserves to pay foreign debt since its economic collapse in 2001-2002, and cannot attract international loans at market rates at the moment.

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