My name is María Laura Arismendi, I am a Certified Public Accountant graduated in 2018 from Universidad de la República. In 2009, halfway through my studies, I found a job advertisement on the bulletin board of the School of Economics and Administration and I did not hesitate to apply for it. The position was offered by the National Corporation for Development and the tasks consisted of receiving and evaluating investment projects.
After several roles and promotions, in 2013 I was appointed General Coordinator of the Application Commission (Advisory Commission of the Executive Branch, created by the Investment Law No. 16,906). (hereinafter COMAP), of which I was a member until the end of 2016. The General Investment Regime, created by the aforementioned Law, grants tax benefits to IRAE taxpaying companies that submit investment projects and undertake to generate certain externalities, such as the generation of employment.
From 2010 to 2016 I was representative of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (hereinafter MEF) before COMAP, being in force during those periods the Investment Promotion Regimes regulated by Decree No. 455/007 and Decree No. 2/012.
My greatest professional achievement was, without a doubt, assuming early in my career the General Coordination of COMAP on behalf of the MEF and, at the same time, leading the team of evaluators and auditors of the investment projects presented.
In turn, I was the representative of the MEF before the COMPRODE (Sports Projects Commission), since its creation and during the following 3 years. COMPRODE was created by the Sports Promotion Law No. 18,833 of October 28, 2011. This Commission advises the Executive Branch for the purpose of granting tax benefits in favor of sports entities whose projects are declared promoted.
Once I finished my term at COMAP, I was an advisor at the Macroeconomic and Financial Advisory Office of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, supporting the authorities in making decisions on the different existing Investment Promotion Regimes and actively participating in the creation of the Regulations of the Investment Promotion Regime regulated by Decree No. 143/018.
During both periods I assumed an important role both in the Ministry of Housing and Land Management and in the National Housing Agency since from the beginning of the implementation of the Regulation of the Social Interest Housing Law I was a member of the CAIVIS (Advisory Commission for Investments in Social Interest Housing-Law No. 18,795 of August 17, 2011). This commission advises the Executive Branch for the purpose of granting tax benefits to those companies whose projects are declared promoted.
During the period in which I was part of the Macroeconomic and Financial Advisory Office of the MEF, I had the opportunity to represent the MEF before the following Institutions and Commissions coordinated by the MGAP: INALE (National Milk Institute), FFDSAL (Fund for Financing and Sustainable Development of the Dairy Activity), INAVI (National Institute of Viticulture), FFRAA (Fund for Financing and Recomposition of the Rice Activity), JUNAGRA (National Farm Board), Honorary Fiscal Commission of the Fund for Reconstruction and Promotion of the Farm. Also during this period, I was appointed as representative before the CSA (Rice Sector Commission) coordinated by the OPP and before the Special Commission created by Decree 139/986, coordinated by the MIEM.
My work activity in public management ended in 2020. It filled me with satisfactions and enriching experiences, accompanied by much learning, constant challenges and overcoming obstacles, always being loyal to my values and convictions, which I am proud of every day.
What does your work consist of? What kind of advice do you provide?
I am currently working as an independent accountant, providing professional services in order to guide the private sector on the different investment possibilities in our country, mainly on the current regulations of the General Investment Regime, i.e. Decree No. 268/020.
*¿ What are the most common inquiries you receive in your work advising potential investments?
The most common queries I have received throughout my career are related to the General Investment Regime, given my long participation in COMAP. Specifically, the companies are interested in knowing the strengths of the Regime, how complex is the presentation of the project, what are the tax benefits to which it would have access, what is the computable investment and what are the commitments that they need to assume to be able to access these exemptions.
Another recurring question is what are the specific benefits for the sector to which the company belongs, and if there is any type of subsidy or tax benefit complementary to the General Regime according to the characteristics of the company.
*Do you consider Uruguay an attractive country? Why invest there? What favorable conditions do you find?
Undoubtedly it is. Our country has a history of consolidated political, social and democratic stability, as well as macroeconomic soundness, which creates the right environment for developing investments. The country is continuously working to achieve an adequate business climate and the greatest facilities for the execution of investments.
In Uruguay, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has reached record levels, which has allowed the country to position itself among the main recipients of FDI in terms of GDP in South America.. In recent years, FDI increased six-fold in value compared to historical data. For a small and open economy such as Uruguay’s to be attractive for FDI, it is essential to have a strong and reliable institutional framework. Successive Uruguayan governments have generated an appropriate investment climate, ensuring a business-friendly environment, an attractive and stable legal regime, and a regulatory and institutional framework that is adapted to the needs of investors.
Uruguay is an Investor Grade country, ratified by the main credit rating agencies. Credit ratings are an important independent assessment that is taken into account by international investors when building their investment portfolios..
On February 25, 2021, Uruguay became the 50th country to adhere to the “OECD Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises” as a result of its impressive progress in implementing investment policy reforms to improve the country’s business climate and foster the positive contribution that investment can make to economic, environmental and social progress.
Uruguay has a first class port infrastructure in its capital city, from where it has the densest road network in the continent, with excellent contacts with neighboring countries. It has a modern airport, designated as one of the best in the world. Both at the country’s ports and airports, it is possible to operate under the free port/airport regime, which will allow it to carry out logistic operations, including adding value to the re-imported goods without taxation.
FDI, together with attractive incentives and investment promotion regimes, led to a significant inflow of capital that resulted in significant changes in the country’s export matrix. The investment promotion law helped the entry of cutting-edge technology in: inputs and machinery, irrigation systems, clean energy production, etc. The agricultural, industrial and livestock sectors have become more technified and have incorporated a set of services associated with agrifood production, which have resulted in the incorporation of greater value added to final production.
In addition, the Forestry Law of 1987, which has been in force for more than 30 years, has had a great impact on the economy and, together with the Investment Promotion Law, has created a favorable framework and a consistent policy for the development of the forestry industry. Exports of wood and cellulose currently account for almost one-fifth of Uruguay’s exports of goods.
Uruguayan exports of goods in 2021 totaled US$11,549 million. This is the highest historical level in value. Beef was the product with the greatest impact on growth in 2021, both due to better prices and higher export volumes. Sales of electric power and cellulose also showed strong increases, in a context of higher export prices. Other products with a positive impact on the annual variation were wood, meat by-products, soybeans and beverage concentrate.
China was again Uruguay’s main trading partner in 2021, accounting for 28% of goods exports, with US$ 3,277 million exported. In second place was Brazil (16%), followed by the European Union (14%), Argentina (5%), the United States (5%), and Egypt (4%).
In terms of trade agreements, in 2021, a joint feasibility study with China was announced to evaluate a possible Uruguay-China FTA. Likewise, at the end of 2021, it was announced that negotiations for a Uruguay-Turkey FTA would be launched in March 2022.
On the other hand, our country has gone and is going a long way with respect to governance and the Sustainable Development Goals, Uruguay is truly committed to everything that implies a change in the utilitarian criterion of efficiency and productivity for individual benefit. The social impacts of the present can no longer be monitored, and Uruguayan business culture has become aware of the global problem. The country has the institutional framework to verify and teach on the subject. Uruguay has the best energy supply in Latin America based on renewable sources. It is a country with high Corporate Social Responsibility and human resources in Uruguay are highly competitive thanks to its high technical and university quality and the flexibility to adapt to new production or technological processes and new ways of working and regulations.
We are proud of the good inter-institutional communication between the different public and private economic actors. There is very good communication between the Ministries and in general all public and private institutions. Uruguay has promoted a series of reforms that imply a significant improvement in the efficiency and agility of government processes, such as the opening of companies on the same day, electronic invoicing and signature, and a single window for foreign trade. It is also actively working on improving construction permit processing times, among others.
A very important point to highlight is that foreign investors enjoy the same incentives as local investors, under the Investment Law No. 16,906, which puts companies on an equal footing from a tax point of view. COMAP (Implementation Commission) has recommended to the Executive Branch over the last 10 years investment projects totaling approximately USD 1.5 billion per year. Under the last Decree regulating the Law (period 05/2020-05/2022), 3,168 investment projects were submitted for a total of US$ 2,971 million. The Law grants powers to the Executive Branch to determine which types of companies will be eligible for the tax benefits. Since 2007, all IRAE taxpaying companies may submit their projects for promotion, regardless of their activity. As of today, Decree No. 268/20 is in force, which also enabled cooperatives to promote investments. Uruguay is characterized by the inclusion of favorable policies for both large companies and MYPIMES (micro, small and medium-sized enterprises). For example, all of them can apply to the General Investment Regime, giving a plus in the tax exemption to the MYPES.
Investments in personal property directly destined to the activity of the company and the construction of real estate or fixed improvements, excluding those destined to housing, may be considered eligible within the framework of Law No. 16,906. Investments in seedlings and the costs of planting multi-year fruit trees and shrubs are also considered eligible for COMAP. For investment projects submitted to the
Under Article 23 of Decree No. 268/020 and until August 31, 2023, the acquisition of electric vehicles shall be considered an eligible investment.
The tax benefits available to companies through the General Investment Regime are as follows:
-Exemption from Income Tax on Economic Activities for a percentage of the eligible investment, resulting from the application of a matrix of indicators. (Unlike previous regulations, the current regulation allows accumulating 150% of points in the matrix of indicators, ensuring higher scores and therefore a higher exemption).
-Exemption from Wealth Tax on personal property and real estate for a term of 8 years if the project is located in Montevideo, and for 10 years if it is located in the interior of the country.
-Value Added Tax refund for the local purchase of materials and services for the civil works and personal property for the investment project.
Total exemption from taxes and duties on the importation of fixed assets and materials destined to the promoted civil works, provided that they are declared non-competitive of the national industry.
On the other hand, the Law establishes that the promotional declaration may apply to a specific sectorial activity. This point has enabled the creation of regulations aimed at attracting investments in strategic sectors (these will be mentioned in point 7).
Uruguay has become a leader in technology, leading the ICT Development Index in Latin America. This fact is also reflected in the degree of Internet penetration and download speed, where our country occupies a prominent position in the region. The benefits that the Financial Inclusion Law has had on the entire financial system, both for the private sector and for consumers, are undeniable.
The country is on its way to becoming an innovation hub. Uruguay is the largest software exporter per capita in Latin America and an undisputed leader in communications, with a community of no less than 600 companies in the technology sector.
*Do you consider it attractive for countries such as Spain and Uruguay to generate business links with each other?
Yes. Spain is the fourth largest economy in Europe and this implies important opportunities for Uruguay as a gateway to the European Union. On the other hand, Spain holds a leading international position in several areas, such as renewable energies and biotechnology, which can contribute to boost Uruguay’s productive matrix with economic, social and environmental sustainability. Uruguay is characterized as a country with political, economic and institutional stability, which respects individual freedoms and is open to the world, both in terms of trade and investment. In turn, as stated in a previous point, Uruguay is characterized for being a country that gives equal treatment to domestic and foreign investments. In addition, it is important to note that Spain and Uruguay have a cultural similarity, which facilitates trade relations between the two economies.
*What about the Netherlands in relation to Uruguay?
Yes, because important complementarities have been identified in the productive matrixes of both countries. For example, the experience of the Netherlands in food production with high mechanization and application of biotechnologies with care for natural resources may be of interest to the Uruguayan agricultural sector. Likewise, Uruguay’s agro-exporting vocation and its prominent position on the world stage for some products can contribute to the reputation of the Netherlands as a food supplier.
* What opportunities or benefits could a foreigner have by settling or doing business in Uruguay? or doing business in Uruguay?
In addition to the above mentioned in point 4, we can mention the following most important tools implemented by the different ministries with the purpose of promoting investment in our country:
-Free Zone Law: Free Zone users are exempt from all national taxes, created or to be created, including those in which by law specific exemption is required, with respect to the activities developed in the same. The free trade zones employ approximately 15,000 people (56% of whom have tertiary education). In 2021, sales from free trade zones reached US$2,322 million, representing 20% of the country’s total sales.
-Shared Services Center: A Shared Services Center is defined as an entity belonging to a group of companies, whose exclusive activity is the effective rendering of certain services (specified in the regulations) to at least twelve (12) related parties that are members of said group.
-Public-Private Participation Law: Provides incentives and establishes a framework for investment in infrastructure works through joint ventures. Through this law, road, railroad, port, airport, energy infrastructure, waste disposal and treatment, and social infrastructure works may be carried out.
-Law of Social Interest Housing: Law No. 18,795 promotes the construction of Social Interest Housing (VIS) by granting very important tax benefits to both the project developer and the buyers of the units.
-Regime for constructions of Great Economic Significance: Promotes the construction of real estate for housing or office use, for sale or lease; it also promotes private initiative urbanization (i.e., the transformation of rural or suburban land, subdividing it and providing it with the necessary infrastructure for the construction of housing).
Industry, Energy and Technology
– Industrial Parks and Scientific-Technological Parks: This is an industrial policy instrument that grants authorizations and benefits to industrial park and scientific-technological park installers and their users.
– Industrial Fund: The Industrial Fund is an instrument that grants non-refundable funds to companies that present investment projects that promote value addition.
-Biotechnology Decree No. 11/013: This is a sectorial promotion instrument that grants tax benefits to companies that carry out biotechnology production activities.
Biotechnology Fund: This is an instrument for co-financing biotechnology projects, which provides non-reimbursable funds to companies in the sector.
-VAT and IMESI exemption on the purchase of capital goods: VAT and IMESI exemption for movable goods destined directly to the productive cycle of the company and those destined to the elimination or mitigation of its negative environmental impacts or to recompose the affected environmental conditions.
Incubaelectro: Incubation program that promotes innovative electronic-based projects in early stages.
-Electronics and Robotics Fund: Promotes the development of companies in this area by adding value to the production of goods and services.
-Technological Linkage Fund: This is an instrument to support industrial MSMEs for improvements in production processes and competitiveness.
-Benefit system for manufacturers of agricultural machinery: This program seeks to stimulate the manufacture of agricultural machinery in Uruguay, promoting the exemption of all taxes on the import of necessary parts.
Livestock and Agriculture
– FFRAA (Fondo de Financiamiento y Recomposición de la Actividad Arrocera): Finances the rice activity.
– FFDSAL (Fondo de Financiamiento y Desarrollo Sustentable de la Actividad Lechera): Finances the dairy activity of producers.
-FFG (Fondo de Fomento de la Granja): allocates resources for the cancellation or amortization of debts owed by farmers to the Banco de Previsión Social (Social Security Bank).
-VAT exemption on the sale and import of agricultural machinery.
-Decree 173: This Decree is generally applied by tourism companies in combination with the General Investment Regime. The extra benefit of this Decree is that it grants a 50% exemption of import taxes without the condition of non-competitiveness and a VAT exemption of the land on which the real estate associated with the investment project is located.
-Condominium Hotels: Tax benefits are granted to the activity developed by the Condominium Hotels, both to the developer and the operator.
-Indirect benefit: Benefits for foreign tourists (and for domestic tourists during 2022 for zero VAT on some services and VAT reduction on other tourism services in low season until September 30). Discount on expenses at stations located within a specific radius in tourist areas. Tax Free regime for foreign tourists.
Access to financing and the soundness of the financial institutions make the execution of investments effective. They support the different sectors of activity, adapting their financial instruments to the current situation of each sector.
Finally, it is necessary to highlight the existence and purpose of two National Agencies that currently play a fundamental role for the private sector:
-ANII (National Agency for Research and Innovation): Created in 2006 in response to the growing focus on innovation and the need to promote the development of technical and professional knowledge in the country from the public sector, and to encourage the management and development of innovative ventures whose application benefits the entire population.
-ANDE (National Development Agency): An institution that promotes the country’s development through programs that seek to improve business and territorial competitiveness, with emphasis on MSMEs.
* Do you consider that Uruguay can be seen as the gateway to Latin America?
Undoubtedly, given that Uruguay is characterized as a country with political, economic and institutional stability, which respects individual freedoms and is open to the world, both in terms of trade and investment. In turn, Uruguay has historically maintained good relations with the countries of the region. Free access to Mercosur allows it to access a major South American market free of tariffs. On the other hand, its geographical location places it in a privileged position from a logistical point of view, as a gateway to South America.
If you would like more information on how Gimbrere Legal can assist you with matters in Uruguay, whether you are a citizen or a foreigner, please do not hesitate to contact us.