Argentine President Tightens Foreign Exchange Controls: Timeline

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner introduced the following controls since her re-election in October 2011 to stem capital outflows and shore up central bank reserves.

Some dates are approximate and are subject to revision as more information becomes available. The list starts with the latest measures and ends with the first.

2013:

March 18: Argentina increases a tax on credit- and debit-card purchases made abroad and on foreign shopping by Internet to 20 percent from 15 percent. The tax agency extends the tax to purchases of tickets for international travel and package tours, and to the payment of foreign services such as hotel accommodation, restaurant dining and car hire.

March 14: Central bank restricts the use of credit and debit cards for placing bets abroad.

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Feb. 22: Capital outflows fell 84 percent in 2012 to the lowest since 2006 after Fernandez tightened currency controls.

The central bank said outflows totaled $3.4 billion in 2012 after $21.5 billion left the country in 2011. The economy received a net inflow of $163 million in the fourth quarter, the second consecutive quarterly inflow.

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2012:

Sept. 6: Central bank revokes authorizations for private banks and exchange houses to operate in the country’s airports and ports. The measure was taken to protect tourists from “abusive” practices such as using unfair exchange rates, the bank said.

Sept. 3: The tax agency extends the 15 percent tax advance on credit-card purchases made abroad to include debit cards and to international Internet purchases using credit cards.

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Aug. 30: Tax agency Director Ricardo Echegaray tells credit-card companies to add a 15 percent tax advance to all purchases their clients make abroad. The tax agency will review credit-card statements to check if travelers exceed the $300 duty-free allowance on goods brought into the country.

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July 17: The government extends the time allowed for some mining companies to repatriate export revenue to as many as 180 days. The government also extends the deadline for laboratories and agriculture companies to repatriate export revenue.

July 5: The central bank issues a list of acceptable reasons to justify foreign currency purchases. The list doesn’t include savings nor future purchases of real estate. All dollar purchases for any reason other than those on the list are “suspended,” the bank says.

Individuals are allowed to buy a limited amount of dollars for purposes including foreign travel, mortgage payments and to send to family members traveling abroad who run out of money.

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June 8: The central bank suspends the minimum reserve requirement on dollar deposits for two months as savers withdraw the U.S. currency from bank accounts.

June 6: President Fernandez says she’s switching her savings into pesos from dollars and urged aides to do the same. Fernandez says she would convert money she invests in fixed-term dollar deposits to pesos because “it’s more profitable.”

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May 28: Argentina further tightens control of the exchange market, requiring residents who want to buy foreign currency for travel abroad to provide details of the trip to the tax agency.

May 18: The central bank announces capital outflows slowed in the first quarter due to the tighter controls on the exchange market. Investors withdrew $1.6 billion, compared with $3.3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

May 15: The tax agency tightens rules to clamp down on foreign- exchange trading outside the regulated market. The agency said it will monitor more closely people who buy U.S. dollars in the official market and then sell them in the unregulated market to profit from the higher price for dollars paid by dealers outside official channels.

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April 1: The central bank limits dollar withdrawals from cash machines overseas to individuals who have dollar-denominated accounts. The move prevents Argentines who only have peso accounts from fueling capital flight by withdrawing dollars at cash machines while they are abroad.

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March 22: The Senate approves changes to the central bank’s charter to allow the government unlimited use of the bank’s international reserves to pay debt. The changes also enable the institution to boost loans to the government to help cover a widening budget deficit.

March 14: The government tells oil companies to boost output to help cut imports. Subsequently, YPF SA, the country’s largest oil company, loses 12 licenses in five provinces.

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Feb. 17: The central bank reports capital flight slowed from a record pace in the fourth quarter. Investors withdrew $3.3 billion from South America’s second-biggest economy in the October-through-December period, down from $8.4 billion in the previous quarter.

Feb. 1: Argentina tightens controls on imports, prompting complaints from Brazil, the country’s main trade partner.

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Jan. 26: The central bank increases from Feb. 1 capital requirements for banks that distribute payments to shareholders to 75 percent more than the minimum required for financial institutions from 35 percent previously.

--------------------------------------------------------------- -2011:

Dec. 22: The Senate approves an anti-terrorism law that states the buying or selling of foreign currencies outside the official market may be considered an act of terrorism. Prison sentences of as long as eight years can be imposed for “conduct that affects the economic and financial order.”

Dec. 1: The central bank reports that capital flight accelerated to the fastest pace in at least four years in the third quarter as investors concerned about inflation and a weakening peso pulled cash out of the country.

Capital flight totaled $8.4 billion in the July-to- September period compared with $6.1 billion the previous quarter. Outflows rose to $18 billion in the first nine months of 2011 from $9.2 billion a year earlier. ---------------------- ------------------------------------------

Nov. 3: The government’s representative on the board of YPF SA votes against a 2.81 billion peso dividend to shareholders, including controlling company Spain’s Repsol.

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Oct. 31: Individuals and companies are required to obtain authorization from the federal tax agency before purchasing foreign currency.

Oct. 27: The central bank sets new rules requiring foreign investors to register currency inflows tied to investments in property and other local assets. Those who fail to register funds brought into the country will need to seek the central bank’s permission before they can repatriate any proceeds.

Oct. 26: Argentina orders oil, gas and mining companies such as Xstrata Plc, Total SA, Petroleo Brasileiro SA and Pan American Energy LLC to repatriate all future export revenue.

Fernandez also orders insurance companies to bring back all investments and funds held abroad.

Oct. 25: Tax agency officials visit Buenos Aires exchange houses, ordering customers who are seeking to buy as little as $100 to fill out currency exchange forms and provide identification and proof of income. Jose Sbattella, head of Argentina’s anti-money laundering agency, says the government is trying to crack down on investors who use other people to buy dollars for them.

Oct. 23: Fernandez is re-elected with 54 percent of votes, the most obtained by a presidential candidate since Juan Domingo Peron in 1973.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eliana Raszewski in Buenos Aires at eraszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net

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