As the calendar turns toward April 15th, everyone in the US knows what’s coming: tax day. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated their systems, and there are dozens of tax management tech products, many people still have to file via a paper 1040 form that takes 6-8 weeks to process. Compare that to Chile, a less “developed” country according the most of the world, where paying taxes is as simple as logging on to the Servicios de Impuestos Internos (SII, Chilean IRS) website to see all your paychecks and spending from the year. On Chilean tax day, people can immediately if they’ll get a refund and how much it will be, which then shows up in your bank account automatically in 1-4 weeks.
Electronic tax filing systems are not unique to Chile. Colombia, Argentina, and Mexico allow people to pay taxes online or even via app, using a personal identification number like a Social Security number.
However, not all of Latin America is so progressive when the time comes to pay taxes. According to the World Bank, Brazil’s tax policy is one of the most complex in the world, so much so that doing taxes requires over 2000 hours per year, compared to 291 in Chile, 311 in Argentina, and Colombia with just 239. Latin American countries also have Value Added Tax (IVA in Spanish) that you have to pay monthly included in their totals.
Across the region, government ministries are rapidly introducing new methods to simplify and speed up the taxpaying process. Here are some of the ways Latin American governments are working to improve the often-painful process of paying your taxes.
Only 11% of Latin Americans have access to credit from formal institutions. In fact, in Chile, 37% of adults have no accounts with a formal financial provider, even though Chile has one of the highest levels of financial inclusion in the region.
In comparison, under 40% of adults in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have formal bank accounts. However, in one of the most chronically underbanked parts of the world, improvements in financial technology have opened the doors for widespread financial inclusion throughout the Latin America.
More and more people are accessing mobile payments, credit systems, and P2P lending opportunities through recent advances in local fintech, and investors are catching wind of the enormous opportunity.
While there have been considerable advances in financial technology in Latin America in the past five years, many tools are still only available in the countries where they were founded. A report by Oliver Wyman, released in September 2016, provides a snapshot of local fintech players in Chile, Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
Colombia has come a long way as a country and as a place to do business. The sensationalized version of Colombia that Narcos depicts is no longer accurate, though the reputation lives on.
Colombia’s history is long and complicated, filled with violent groups trying to control the country’s lucrative drug trade. But there’s so much more to Colombia than just drugs. 2017’s historic peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC, the largest guerrilla group, is a potential inflection point in Colombia’s history. And if I had to bet on a single Latin American country for the next 10-15 years, Colombia would be my pick.
Though many think it’s coffee, Colombia’s largest export is actually petroleum, which makes up over a third of the country’s exports, followed by coal, coffee, cut flowers, and gold. Coffee, however, was responsible for pushing Colombia toward a manufacturing based economy. After the War of a Thousand Days, which ended in 1902, Colombia’s coffee boom pushed the country to seek better transportation and manufacturing mechanisms.
Coffee production consistently grew in the 20th century, employing more than 500,000 families. While the government managed Colombia’s economy conservatively, the the political atmosphere turned increasingly unstable, corrupt and violent from the drug trade.
In 1991 the country adopted a new constitution. The motive for this wasn’t necessarily economic, but rather political, in order to make peace and bring drug lords to justice. Colombia remained relatively stable economically until the late 1990s when fiscal deficits cause a higher public debt which resulted in the country’s first economic recession in over 60 years. But by the early 2000s, the economy began to recover, due to high petroleum prices and stable coffee prices. (more…)
I’m excited to introduce the Crossing Borders podcast (iTunes, Stitcher) where I share the stories of top entrepreneurs doing startups across borders and the investors who support them, with a focus on companies that have some relationship to Latin America.
Over the past 6+ years in Latin America, I’ve met entrepreneurs hailing from countries around the world doing business across borders. Some do business in Latin America. Others use Latin America as a base to target the US market.
They’re some of the most diverse, risk taking, trailblazing entrepreneurs in the world. But when I come back to the US, Latin American startups just aren’t on people’s radars.
They’re mostly stuck on stereotypes of corruption, narcos and failed states. They see Latin America as a monolith and couldn’t tell you the difference between Mexican, Chilean and Argentine food, much less the difference between each country’s business climate.
As Magma portfolio companies started to do business in the US and meet with US investors, they came across this same ignorance of Latin America and its entrepreneurs. US entrepreneurs and investors have slept on Latin America and are missing out on some of the most interesting entrepreneurs in the world. And some of the best stories. (more…)