Shipment Logistics and E-Invoicing Compliance in LatAm

Ramón Frias
July 30, 2021

Moving goods from one place to another is a quintessential part of business. Manufacturers, wholesalers, transporters, retailers and consumers all need to carefully orchestrate the shipping and handling of raw materials, parts, equipment, finished goods and other products to keep business flowing. This supply chain harmony is what makes production and trade possible in society.

In Canada, the United States and most European countries, tax administrations don’t intervene much in these trade processes. Until recently, the same could be said about most countries of Latin America. But, with the rise and expansion of electronic invoicing mandates in the region, this is rapidly changing.

Most governments with mature e-invoicing mandates are now recognizing that these mechanisms and government platforms can be used as vehicles to understand where, what, how and when goods are being moved. The traditional electronic invoice, is no longer enough – and tax authorities are requiring businesses to report goods movements in real-time.

The implications are serious too. Goods moved on public roads without those documents are very likely to be seized by the authorities, and the owners and transporters will be subject to fines and other sanctions.

Brazil and Mexico lead the way

The country with the most sophisticated system in place is arguably Brazil. The MDF-e (or Manifesto Eletrônico de Documentos Fiscais) is a mandatory document required by the tax administration in order to audit the movement of goods in Brazil.

This purely digital document combines the information of an electronic invoice (NF-e) and the electronic documents that hauling companies issue to their clients (CT-e). This system became mandatory in 2014 and has since been expanded and modernized with a vast grid of electronic sensors and transponders placed in the public highways of Brazil, intended to ensure that every truck moving goods already has the corresponding MDF-e, NF-e and CT-e. In most cases, the authorities don’t need to stop the trucks to verify the existence of the document.

Mexico recently issued a new resolution requiring taxpayers delivering goods, or simply redistributing them, to have the corresponding authorization from the tax administration (SAT). Products delivered by road, rail, air or waterways need to have what is known as the CFDI with the Supplement of Carta Porte.

CFDI is the acronym for an electronic invoice in Mexico. That supplement of Carta Porte is a new attachment to the electronic invoice of transfer (Traslado) issued by the owners delivering products or to the CFDI of Income (Ingresos) issued by the hauling companies. Carta Porte will provide all the details about the goods being transported, the truck or other means being used, the time of delivery, route, destination, purchaser, transporter and other information. This new mandate will become effective on 30 September 2021. As is in Brazil, noncompliance with this mandate will result in hefty penalties.

E-transport elsewhere in LatAm

Chile also has a mandate requiring the delivery of goods to be pre-authorized by the tax administration. These tax authorized documents are locally known as Guias de Despacho (or dispatch guides) and since January 2020 they can only be issued in an electronic format.

There are some exceptions where the dispatch guide can be issued temporarily on a paper format by certain taxpayers. Also, in cases of contingency, taxpayers may be authorized to issue paper versions of the guide; however, that will not exempt the issuer of regularizing the process once the contingency is complete.

The content of the dispatch guide will vary depending on who issues it and the purpose of the delivery (sales, consignment, returns, exports, internal transfers etc.) but in general, delivery of goods in Chile without the authorized dispatch guide will be subject to penalties from the tax administration (SII).

Argentina has a federal level VAT and a provincial level gross revenue tax. To control tax evasion, both levels of governments exercise certain levels of control in the process of dispatching goods within their jurisdictions.

The tax authority’s system for controlling the flow of goods in public ways is not as encompassing as in Brazil, Chile and Mexico, but it is getting closer. Only the provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Mendoza, plus the City of Buenos Aires, require authorization from the fiscal authority to move goods that originated in, or are destined to, their jurisdictions. For that, they require the COT (or Transport Operations Code) where all the data related to the products, means of transport and other information is included once the authorization is provided. The provinces of Salta, Rio Negro and Entre Rios are working on similar regulations.

At federal level, the AFIP (Federal tax administration) only requires pre-authorization for the delivery of certain products such as meat and cereals. But at this level too, the regulatory environment is changing.

The AFIP, along with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Transportation have issued a joint resolution 5017/2021 that mandates the use of a digital bill of lading (Carta Porte Electronica) whenever there is a transfer of agricultural products on public roads in Argentina. This change will become effective on 1 November 2021. In 2022, this federal requirement may expand to other products.

LatAm sets the scene for electronic invoicing trends

The requirement of authorization for moving goods in LatAm is not limited to the largest economies of the region. Smaller countries with electronic invoicing systems have expanded, or are in the process of expanding their mandates to require taxpayers to inform the tax authority, before goods are moved as result of a sale or any other internal distribution.

For instance, Peru requires the Guias de Remision from taxpayers before they start the delivery of their products. This electronic document should be informed to and authorized by the tax administration (SUNAT) using the digital format established for that purpose and will include all the information about the product delivered, issuer, recipient, means of transport, dates and more.

Uruguay has the ‘e-Remitos’ which is an electronic document authorized by the tax administration (DGI). It is required for any physical movement of goods in Uruguay. As in other countries, this document will provide all the information about the goods being transported, the means used, the issuer, the recipient and additional data. It is electronically delivered and authorized by the tax administration using the XML schemas established for that purpose.

Lastly, in Ecuador the tax administration (SRI) requires the ‘Guias de Remision’ (Delivery Guide) for any goods to be transported legally inside the country. As the infrastructure to support the electronic invoice is not fully developed in Ecuador, in some cases the tax administration allows the taxpayer to comply with this part of the mandate by having the electronic invoice issued by the retailer delivering the goods to his clients. Even though Colombia and Costa Rica do not require a separate electronic document to authorize the transport of goods, it is expected that in the future, this requirement will come into effect, mirroring what has happened in many other countries of the region.

The common element of all these mandates in Latin America, is that all of them are closely knitted to the electronic invoicing system imposed in each country. They are basically seen as another module of the electronic invoice system where information regarding goods being transported by public roads, waterways, by rail or air should be submitted to the tax administration, via the XML schemas established for that purpose.

Tax administrations in the region are actively enhancing their systems to ensure that movements of goods are properly controlled in real time. In some cases, tax administrations have provided online solutions aimed at taxpayers with small numbers of deliveries. But for all other taxpayers, a self-deployed solution is required.

Enforcement of the mandate is made not only by the tax administration, but also by the police and the public roads authorities, both of which routinely seize goods for non- compliance. Since these mandates have proven to be successful to control tax avoidance and smuggling, it’s safe to say that the Remitos, Dispatch Guides, Carta Porte or COTs are here to stay for good and taxpayers doing business in Latin America have no option but to comply with this new regulatory requirement.

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Ramón Frias

Ramon is a Tax Counsel on the Regulatory Analysis team at Sovos. He is licensed to practice law in the Dominican Republic and is a member of the Dominican Bar Association. He has a Certificate Degree from Harvard University as well as a J.D. from the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo. Ramon has written a number of essays about tax administration and has won the first prize in the international essays contest sponsored by the Inter American Center of Tax Administrations (CIAT). Prior to joining Sovos, Ramon worked for more than 10 years in the Department of Revenue of the Dominican Republic where he served as Deputy Director. He is proficient in French and Spanish.
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