Telecommuting internationally?
July 6, 2008 6:15 PM   Subscribe

I want to keep my American job but live abroad (in Argentina)-- what does this mean for taxes and visas?

I'm a graphic designer who works from home and my company has let me know they'd be OK with me telecommuting from abroad. I'd like to move to Buenos Aires for several months, or longer... I'll see as it goes, and might even move from city to city if I like it as much as I think I will.

What does this mean for taxation? Will I still have to pay the same amount of American taxes that I do now, and will I have to pay any taxes in Argentina?

And does anyone know what kind of visa I would need? I don't need work in Buenos Aires so I don't need a working visa, but I would like the chance to stay longer than the 90 days that tourist visas allow.
posted by inactivist to Travel & Transportation around Argentina (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know about overseas, but I live in Virginia and teach online at a college in Oregon. I pay Oregon taxes on my income.
posted by orsonet at 6:37 PM on July 6, 2008

Don't know about the taxes, but getting a resident visa is a pain. Most people I know just cross over to Uruguay (across the river, very nice day trip on a boat!) to get another 90 days.
posted by papalotl at 7:08 PM on July 6, 2008

I very strongly advise you to get a lawyer or tax consultant familiar with both countries, or at least with Argentina's. Working while staying with a tourist visa is probably unlawful, though with the telecommuting and how archaic our tax codes are, I really don't know. Our tax codes and enforcing authorities can make the adjective "Kafkian" look puny. From what I've just browsed in (Spanish language) government sites there seems to be a "temporary resident" category that you might try, I suppose this is the kind of thing a meeting with knowledgeable people in Argentina's embassy in the US (or one of its Consulates) would know better than even us nationals.

Embassy of Argentina in the USA
posted by Iosephus at 7:52 PM on July 6, 2008

What Iosephus said about the tax consultant, but you need one who really knows the US stuff. The US is one of only a few places that charges you for citizenship even when you live overseas, and it's highly, highly messy. In some countries, there are tax treaties where whatever you would pay to one is paid to the other and the difference is made up... somehow. In others, there aren't. It's ugly, and I don't want to know how it works, but you will want to know that someone working for your interests does know how it works. The company I work for uses KPMG, in case you really have no clue where to start looking for such a person.

Just to be clear. They give me these forms to fill out that determine what kind of taxes I pay where. I can read, have a master's, am a native speaker of English. I can't even understand the forms, let alone figure out how to do the taxes. So yeah, the US-overseas tax issues are not to be ignored, trifled with, or easily answered. Ask someone like KPMG what it could mean for your specific case.
posted by whatzit at 8:18 PM on July 6, 2008

The Economist just ran an article on this (America's Berlin Wall.) Even if you live abroad, you still have to pay income tax to the U.S.
posted by qvtqht at 9:16 PM on July 6, 2008

I can't comment on the tax situation, but as for the visa situation it is as paplotl said. It is very common to just renew your visa every 3 months by taking the ferry to Uruguay for a day trip. You can also renew it once easily by just going to the immigration office near Puerto Madero.

A lot of people also just overstay their visas as the penalty for doing so is very low (US$17 irrespective of the time exceeded). I don't recommend this route as I believe it is disrespectful to their laws and you never know when they might change their relaxed policy.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 12:26 AM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: If I make a border run to renew my visa, can I just leave my belongings in the apartment? Or for that matter, would it set of any bells if I rent an apartment in advance 6 months when my tourist visa is only good for 3?

I'm reluctant to hire tax help since I don't make that much, but I'll consider it if it's really so sticky. I was hoping simply paying my U.S. taxes as usual and not paying Argentine taxes would get me along, though I don't know if passing it off as a vacation would work.
posted by inactivist at 2:07 AM on July 7, 2008

I have a friend (really, it's not me) who lived there for 18 months doing the Uruguay runs (and some other countries). She always had a longer-term apartment and left her stuff in-country when she did her runs.

As far as the taxes, at least get someone to run you through the possibilities and the consequences, so you know where your risks are and how you can minimize them. If you can keep a US address and have someone manage your affairs from home, maybe you can make it look like extended snow-birding, but yikes. I'd be more afraid of being found by the IRS than the Argentine customs...
posted by whatzit at 3:52 AM on July 7, 2008

This probably isn't legal without an Argentine work visa.
posted by oaf at 4:48 AM on July 7, 2008

The Argentine immigration officers won't know anything about your apartment contract or anything like that. I never heard of anyone not being allowed back in. My passport was filled with Argentine entrance and exit stamps so it was quite clear the amount of time I'd been staying. I was a bit nervous myself when doing visa runs after being there for two years but I never had a problem.

You can get more information from other foreigners when you're there before your first visa renewal, don't worry about it now. I wish that more countries had Argentina's attitude to immigration.

Relax, you'll have a great time! If you have any other questions, feel free to mail me.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 5:15 AM on July 7, 2008

Argentine Visas are difficult to qualify for. It might be a good idea anyway to go there for the length of a tourist visa, get a short let and...see how you like it.

..but yikes. I'd be more afraid of being found by the IRS than the Argentine customs...

I'm not sure what this means. The OP has given no indication he's trying to avoid US taxes.
The IRS requires you to file with them every year. You just file as if you were in the US. There's no reason this should be complicated at all. It only gets complicated when you owe taxes to two different countries (as I am) and have to figure out their various tax treaties and such.
posted by vacapinta at 5:35 AM on July 7, 2008

A week ago, I sent my 22-yr-old dtr to Argentina, but not without a major hassle at the Delta airline counter. Since she had a return ticket for 6 months from now, they refused to let her board the plane without a visa. We were very aware of the day-trip-to-Uruguay route around the 90-day visa requirement, but the airline wouldn't budge.

She missed her flight. We re-booked for the next day, with a return within the 90 day limit, and all was well.

Now, to re-book the flight back to December. Of course, $$ at every turn.
posted by cameradv at 6:41 AM on July 7, 2008

Response by poster: cameradv, I'm going to fly in on a one-way ticket and hopefully the lack of return-date will avoid setting off that red flag
posted by inactivist at 1:47 AM on July 8, 2008

A one-way ticket is probably an even bigger flag than a return date that's too far in the future.
posted by oaf at 5:16 AM on July 8, 2008

Response by poster: But why? What if I was flying to Russia instead of home(which I might!)? Or looking for a good deal, or keeping it flexible within that range?

How do all of the other people that do this do it...
posted by inactivist at 7:23 AM on July 8, 2008

What if I was flying to Russia instead of home

Then you'd have an onward ticket. They just want you to have a definite point within 90 days of your arrival when you will be leaving. If you have no plans to leave, they may be a little reluctant to let you in.
posted by oaf at 8:05 AM on July 8, 2008

Ok, I got curious and browsed through what seems our law for migration and admittance of foreigners. I REALLY think you need to discuss this with the Argentine embassy over there, it does look like you can only (lawfully!) do what you plan to do if you are granted a temporary resident visa. It also looks like (more browsing of our tax authority site) you would be required by law to pay Argentine taxes on your income, and even more so if you do apply for and get a temporary resident permit. You may try to dodge all this and do the 90 days roundabout, and there's a good chance you succeed doing so, but it's likely unlawful and I wouldn't like to be you if some bored bureaucrat here catches you. For all their laziness, occasional incompetence and relaxed attitudes, once you rub them the wrong way these people can be very very mean and uncooperative to you.

So: Argentine Embassy and tax consultant ASAP, is my advice.
posted by Iosephus at 9:51 AM on July 8, 2008

How do all of the other people that do this do it...

I booked a return airline ticket that was valid for 1 year but allowed 1 free change. With this you can have the return date within the first 90 day period and change it for a later date once you arrive there.

That was how I did it as well as many others I know.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 8:20 AM on July 9, 2008

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