Grain Exporters Owe Argentina Almost $1 Billion in Taxes

Cargill Inc. and Bunge Ltd. are among grain exporters that owe the Argentine government $951 million in taxes and won’t be eligible for a reduced interest rate under a payment plan unveiled by the government today.

Argentina will reduce monthly interest charges to 1.35 percent from 2 percent for some unpaid taxes that were due Feb. 28. The payments can be made in as many as 120 monthly installments, the government said.

“Grain exporters have been excluded as they were disingenuous and therefore don’t deserve a plan to regularize their situation,” Ricardo Echegaray, head of Argentina’s Federal Administration of Public Revenue, known as AFIP, said today at a press conference in Buenos Aires.

The second-largest South American economy has boosted federal tax collection to 31.8 percent last year from 16.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2002, according to the Buenos Aires-based Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth.

The nation is seeking full repayment with interest from Cargill ($228 million), Bunge (BG) ($126.3 million), Molinos Rio de la Plata SA ($197 million), Louis Dreyfus Corp. ($141 million), Nidera SA ($132 million), Vicentin SAIC ($62 million), Aceitera General Deheza SA ($48 million) and Oleaginosa Moreno Hermanos Sacifia ($17 million).

Andres Alcaraz, a spokesman for Camara de la Industria Aceitera de la Republica Argentina, the nation’s association of grains exporters, declined to comment on Echegaray’s statement. Cargill and Bunge didn’t respond to calls seeking comment.

The local unit of HSBC Holdings Plc, which last week was accused of tax evasion of 224 million pesos ($44 million), won’t be allowed to apply either as it faces a criminal case for alleged money laundering, Echegaray said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Pablo Gonzalez in Buenos Aires at pgonzalez49@bloomberg.net; Silvia Martinez in Buenos Aires at smartinez19@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net

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