Uruguay: Puerto libre vs Zona Franca

Last Updated: 26 January 2018
Article by Juan Campomar

El objetivo del presente informe es analizar las características del régimen jurídico de Puerto Libre en comparación con el régimen de Zonas Francas, como instrumentos jurídicos dinamizadores de la economía y que posicionan a Uruguay como uno de los principales centros de distribución de mercadería en la región.
El presente no pretende analizar todas las actividades que se pueden desarrollar dentro de zona franca o puerto libre sino exclusivamente esta referido a las actividades comerciales con movimiento de mercadería y los servicios conexos con la misma, que son el rubro donde computen o se complementan ambos regímenes según las necesidades de cada sujeto económico.
En este sentido el articulo 1 de la ley 15.921 establece "Declarase de Interés Nacional la promoción y desarrollo de las zonas francas, con los objetivos de promover inversiones, expandir exportaciones, incrementar la utilización de mano de obra nacional e incentivar la integración económica internacional". Por su parte la ley de Puertos 16.246 expresa en su articulo 1 que "La prestación de servicios portuarios eficientes competitivos constituye un objetivo prioritario para el desarrollo del país."

1. Introducción al régimen de Puerto Libre y Zona Francas.
El régimen de puerto libre y zona franca se enmarca en el concepto de exclave aduanero definido en el Código Aduanero. Se entiende por exclave aduanero la parte del territorio del país, en cuyo ámbito geográfico las disposiciones aduaneras no son aplicables..."
La referencia en la definición a la parte del territorio del país se debe interpretar como territorio político. En el derecho aduanero uruguayo a los efectos de comprender el concepto de exclave es preciso diferenciar el territorio político del aduanero. Se entiende por territorio político el ámbito espacial sobre le cual el Estado ejerce su soberanía. Por su parte se entiende por territorio aduanero la porción de territorio  político donde se aplican las disposiciones aduaneras del Estado, fundamentalmente las medidas arancelarias y no arancelarias (medidas sanitarias, fitosanitarias, permisos autorizaciones, etc.)
De esta forma el régimen de puerto libre y zona franca en su carácter de exclaves aduaneros no son parte del territorio aduanero.
El articulo 49 del Código Aduanero define la importación como "la introducción a plaza para el consumo de mercaderías procedentes del exterior del territorio aduanero nacional, sujetas al pago de tributos o al amparo de franquicias correspondientes.
Asimismo, el articulo 52 define la exportación como "la salida de plaza, para ser consumida en el exterior del territorio aduanero nacional".

Por su parte el articulo 48 estipula..." Son operaciones de transito de mercaderías por el territorio aduanero nacional el transito directo, el removido y el reembarque. El trasbordo se considera transito directo".
En base a la definición de las operaciones aduaneras tenemos las siguientes situaciones: a) si desde territorio aduanero se trasladan bienes al exclave, ello recibe el tratamiento de una exportación ( no sujeta a tributación especifica y exonerad de IVA e Impuesto Especifico Interno), b) A la inversa, si desde el exclave se introducen bienes en territorio aduanero se aplican los gravámenes a las importaciones; c) los bienes que se introduzcan desde el exterior al exclave también estarán desde el punto de vista aduanero en tránsito.

2. Régimen de Puerto Libre

2.1 Aspectos Generales
La ley 16.246 es la creadora de régimen de puerto libre sin embargo la definición de la mismo quedó librada a la reglamentación.
De acuerdo al decreto 455/94 se estableció que configuran Puertos Libres los recintos aduaneros portuarios en los que rigen los regímenes fiscales y aduaneros especiales consagrados en la ley de Puertos y en los cuales es libre la circulación de mercaderías, sin exigencia de autorizaciones ni trámites formales.
El decreto 412/92 define en su artículo literal b) al recinto aduanero portuario como el "conjunto de espacios bajo la jurisdicción de la Administración Portuaria que dotados de las condiciones físicas y organizativas necesarias a juicio de la DNA queden habilitados para la libre circulación de productos y mercaderías en régimen de exclave aduanero".
A partir de la ley de puertos, Montevideo es la primer terminal de la costa atlántica de América del Sur que opera bajo un régimen de Puerto Libre. Este régimen también se aplica a Fray Bentos, Nueva Palmira, Colonia, Sauce y La Paloma. Se debe señalar que el régimen de puerto libre se extiende al Aeropuerto internacional de Carrasco.

2.2 Actividades Permitidas
Para gozar de beneficios, las actividades que se cumplan en los puertos deberán ser de depósito, reenvasado, remarcado, clasificado, agrupado o desagrupado, consolidado, desconsolidado, manipulación, fraccionamiento, transporte, trasbordo, reembarque, transito, removido, disposición, abastecimiento de buques y demás actividades conexas que no modifiquen la naturaleza de la mercadería.

2.3 Tramite de Autorización para operar
Es necesario acordar las condiciones comerciales de almacenamiento d mercadería con un deposito debidamente habilitado. De conformidad el artículo 15 de la ley de puertos la Administración Portuaria otorgará con la previa aprobación del Poder Ejecutivo a su propuesta, la habilitación correspondiente para prestar servicios portuarios, a las empresas que lo soliciten y cumplan con los requisitos que se exijan en la reglamentación.

2.4 Aspectos aduaneros e impositivos
Durante su permanencia en el exclave, las mercaderías estarán exentas de todos los tributos y recargos aplicables a la importación o en ocasión de la misma. Con relación a los aspectos impositivos las empresas r4esidentes que operan en puerto libre están gravadas con el impuesto a la renta e impuesto al patrimonio.
Sin embargo, las empresas no resientes que operen con mercaderías de origen extranjero se encuentran totalmente exoneradas del pago de impuesto a la renta cuando tales mercaderías no tengan origen territorio aduanero nacional ni estén destinadas al mismo. El impuesto al patrimonio esta exonerado para las entidades del exterior y las personas físicas no residentes que tengan mercadería depositada en zona franca o puerto libre.

2.5 Restricciones para operar
Cuenta con una restricción referida a las empresas no pueden facturar mas del 5% de sus ventas a empresas ubicadas en el territorio no franco de Uruguay.

3. Régimen de Zonas Francas.

3.1 Aspectos Generales
El régimen jurídico de Zonas Francas esta previsto en la ley 15.921, sus normas  modificativas, decretos y resoluciones. Las zonas francas uruguayas son áreas ubicadas dentro del territorio uruguayo en las cuales se reconocen amplias exoneraciones tributarias para las actividades industriales comerciales o de servicios que en ellas se realicen. A los efectos de operar en Zona Franca es necesario constituirse en usuario de zona franca. Es posible adoptar distintos tipos societarios para constituirse en usuario por ej. Sociedad anónima, sociedad de responsabilidad limitada, pero en todos los casos el objeto de la sociedad debe limitarse a la realización de actividades comerciales industriales o de servicios dentro de la zona franca y/o hacia el exterior.

3.2 Actividades permitidas
Pueden desarrollar toda clase de actividades industriales, comerciales o de servicios. Algunas de ellas se encuentran enumeradas en la ley pero no con carácter limitativo.

3.3 Tramite de autorización para operar como usuario
Es necesario firmar un contrato de usuario y presentar un plan de negocios. Todo debe ser aprobado por el Área de Zonas Francas de la Dirección General de Comercio dependiente del Ministerio de Economía y Finanzas que es la entidad estatal que regula y controla las zonas francas en Uruguay.

3.4 Aspectos Aduaneros e Impositivos
Las mercaderías estarán exentas de todo los tributos y recargos aplicables a la importación o en ocasión de la misma. Los usuarios estarna exentos de todos los tributos nacionales, salvo las contribuciones especiales de seguridad social y los impuestos sobre la renta el personal que emplee el usuario.

3.5 Restricciones
a) Las empresas no pueden facturar más del % de sus ventas a empresas ubicadas en el territorio no franco de Uruguay y b) al menos el 75% de los empleados de la empresa instalada en zona franca debe ser uruguayos. Con
referencia al personal extranjero es posible solicitar una excepción al Ministerio para motivos fundados alterar las proporciones mencionadas.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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