The Uruguayan law has allowed the creation of several Free Trade Zones located in diverse places. Nowadays, they can be found in the Departments of Colonia, Florida, Río Negro, Rivera, San José and Montevideo, and in Nueva Palmira City.
Companies in Free Trade Zone are governed by the law, and its object is restricted to activities to carry out inside the Free Zone. An important difference between free trade zones in any Latin American country and Uruguayan free trade zones is that the National Customs Authority has no jurisdiction inside the free trade zones. Its jurisdiction is limited to control the entry and exit of goods to and from the free trade zones.
Some of these free trade zones are private property, others are Government´s property. A third situation is that of Government owned free zones operated by private corporations.
A free trade zone user is the individual or legal entity authorized to operate within these areas. Its operations are restricted exclusively to the free trade zones, not being allowed to perform activities in the national Customs territory.
To operate and to be able to take advantage of the tax exemptions, should be used companies before authorized for such activities.
These companies can be two different:
- Direct Users
- Indirect Users
Free trade zone user companies are all those that acquire a right to operate within a free trade zone by undersigning a contract with the free trade zone operator, be it the State or a duly authorized private company, which are direct users.
Indirect Users may also acquire the right to operate within a free trade zone by undersigning a contract with another user already established in the free trade zone as an indirect User.
Being an indirect user makes it easier for companies to operate under the free trade zone regime. It allows them to temporarily perform business activities without a large investment, and it also gives them a chance to try out the regime before making long-term commitments.
This type of contract allows three options: users who will import/export goods, users who will carry out offshore activities, and users who will grant services.
Companies located in the Free Trade Zones are privileged with tax exemption except for the witholding of the 30% on the dividends that are paid to individuals or companies domiciled abroad.
The 75 % of the Free Trade Zone companies´ employees should be Uruguayan. Although these percentage can be reduced in the following situation, that foreigner employees renounce the benefits of Social Security.
None tax or duty should be paid when importing goods and/or raw material from abroad to these Free Trade Zones, and these goods or raw material can be stocked, packed or manufactured within some transformation process before their exportation from the Free Trade Zones to Uruguay or third countries. Multinational companies are establishing in these Free Trade Zones as a South Common Market Entrance Gate (Mercosur).
The Free Trade Zones are also useful for service companies that do not want to worry about the Income Tax. For instance, financial services companies and software developers companies, e-commerce, servers, portals have established in Uruguayan Free Trade Zones.
There is no restriction in relation with the number of Directors nor in relation with the Directors´ nationality.
Free Trade Zone with Offshore operation.
Another exclusive type of Free Trade Zone User is an Offshore Company of Free Trade Zone.
Offshore Company of Free Trade Zone
The model of statute of these companies enacts that the user will be able to develop data processing services, installment activities, professional advice, will be able to perceive commissions by advice or international business and mediation in harbor activities of load, mediation in the international trading, without entering goods physically to the Free Trade Zone among other activities.
Payment of dividends, benefits o royalties to the shareholders, as well as financial payments of benefits to their creditors ( local or international ) are not subject to retention in the source.