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Uruguay Import Regs.: FTZs/Warehouses

Share your understandings of Uruguay importing regulations, standards and other trade information.

Uruguay Import Regs.: FTZs/Warehouses

Postby bridgat » Tue Nov 18, 2008 7:16 am

The free zone regime was introduced in 1934. The Customs Code (Law No. 15.691 of 7 December 1984) defines free zones as customs enclaves so they are not part of the customs territory and are governed by Law No. 15.921 of 17 December 1987 and Decree No. 454/988. Under this Law, free zones are managed, supervised and controlled by the Free Zones Section of the MEF's Directorate-General of Trade. Companies interested in managing a free zone must submit an application to the MEF, which, after consulting the Honorary Advisory Commission, takes a decision regarding the location of the free zone and, together with the decisions of the Free Zones Section, sends the file to the Executive for a decision.

Regulatory Decree No. 454/88 of 8 July 1988 provides that, in order to be a "direct user" in a free zone (user), the company concerned must sign a contract with the operator, who submits it together with the request to the Free Zones Section of the Directorate-General of Trade and, after it has been approved, the Directorate registers the contract. Under Law No. 15.921, users may engage in activities such as trade, storage, assembly, handling and mixing of products or raw materials either from abroad or from the domestic market; set up and operate manufacturing plants; and provide services.

Law No. 15.921 also provides for "indirect users", who are given the right to operate in a free zone under a contract with a "direct user", making use of the latter's facilities. Uruguayan citizens must make up 75 per cent of the personnel of users in free zones.

According to this Law, companies operating in a free zone are exempt from all national taxes, but not from employers' contributions to social security for staff (other than foreign employees who apply in writing not to participate in the Uruguayan social security scheme). Users are exempt from the IRIC on activities carried out in free zones. Regulatory Decree No. 454/88 of 8 July 1988. Dividends or profits credited or paid to natural or legal persons domiciled abroad are not exempt from the IRIC when they are taxable in the recipient's country of domicile and there is fiscal credit there for taxes paid in Uruguay. Goods, services and raw materials may be imported free of import duty or taxes irrespective of their origin. On the other hand, goods going into the Uruguayan customs territory from free zones are deemed to be imports and are therefore subject to payment of all customs duties and taxes except the IRIC. There is no restriction on the volume or type of products that may be exported from free zones into Uruguayan territory. Under Decree No. 454/88 of 8 July 1988, the introduction and conduct of activities in free zones are subject to the general and special regime laid down in the Law for each activity. The aforementioned Law also provides that there can be no State monopoly of services in the industrial or commercial domain in free zones.

In practice, there are three types of free zone: those belonging to and managed by the State; those owned by the State but managed privately; and private free zones. The only State-managed free zone is Nueva Palmira (which has its own port on the Uruguay River close to the mouth of the Paraná River) (Table III.14). The following are the private free zones: Zonamérica, Florida, Rivera, Colonia Suiza, Libertad, Río Negro, Botnia and M'Bopicua. WTO (1998). The Colonia free zone is owned by the State but managed privately. Since the previous review, two new free zones have been authorized, both in 2004, with the aim of promoting investment, expanding exports, making more use of domestic labour and fostering international economic integration.

Free zones, February 2006
Free zone
Area (hectares)
Operation Main activities

Personnel employed

Llideral SA (Libertad)
Private Commercial

Florida SA
Private Commercial

Colonia Suiza SA
Private Commercial and industrial

Grupo Continental SA (Colonia)
Mixed Commercial and industrial

Río Negro SA
Private Commercial

Riodam SA (Rivera)
State intervention Commercial

Nueva Palmira
State Commercial and industrial

Zonamérica SA (Montevideo)
Private Services and commercial

M'Bopicua SA
Private Industrial
Not yet applicable

Not yet applicable15
Botnia Fray Bentos SA
Private Industrial

a Does not include personnel employed in building the zone, numbering 700.

Free Trade Zone Advantages
Users are exempt from all domestic taxes in effect or which may be created. The only tax not covered by this exemption is employer contributions to social security for Uruguayan employees. Uruguayans must comprise 75% of the labor force employed by the user of the zone. The employer is free from payment of social security taxes for non-Uruguayan employees if those employees waive coverage under the Uruguayan Social Security.

Goods, services, products or raw materials of foreign and Uruguayan origin may be entered into the zones, held there, processed, and re-exported without payment of Uruguayan customs duties and import taxes (goods of Uruguayan origin re-entering into free zones will be treated as Uruguayan exports for all tax and other legal purposes). Goods entering into Uruguayan customs territory from free zones are subject to customs duties and import taxes.

Industrial or commercial government monopolies are not allowed within free trade zones.
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