The costs of buying a football player from Argentina

Published 14 July 2015 By: Ariel Reck

Argentina Players

This blog will briefly examine the charges, taxes, costs and levies typically associated with a football player's transfer from an Argentine to a foreign club, which can – perhaps surprisingly – amount to up to 25.7% of the total transfer price for a foreign club (and can be even more for a domestic team).

This is an important issue because, in the author’s experience, foreign clubs often do not consider these inbuilt levies at the beginning of negotiations, maybe because they do not have anything similar domestically. However, almost every South American nation has significant costs and levies on transfer fees, the logic being that the exporting nation charges as much as possible at the time of the transfer because large sums of money are involved and it is potentially the last chance to levy charges and taxes before the player leaves the country for good.

 

What levies are there in Argentina?

The 25.7% levied on the total transfer price can be approximately disaggregated into the following charges.

The player’s share

Firstly, 15% of the transfer price goes to the player pursuant to the national Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and the "Professional Player's Statute", the federal law 20.160. Article 8 of the CBA (55/2009) provides:1

The professional player´s contract might be subject, during the term of its validity, to a transfer to another club, with the express consent of the player. In such case, the player shall be entitled to – at least- 15% of the gross amount of the transfer, be it temporary or definitive, and the payment of such percentage shall be responsibility of the transferring club by depositing such amount at the Professional Players´ Union."

Almost every South American federation has a similar percentage assigned for the player in a transfer (it usually ranges from 10% - 20%).2 As a labour right, in Argentina, such percentage cannot be waived by the player in advance (in contrast to other nations, such as Spain, were the percentage can be waived).

Social Security Taxes

7% relates to social security taxes. Pursuant to an agreement reached between the Argentine tax authorities and Argentine clubs more than a decade ago (known as Decree 1212/2003), social security taxes are paid by clubs as a deduction of a percentage of the transfer fees, ticketing income and TV rights revenue. The decree states:3

These rules will apply for the payment of the social security duties to the social security systems an amount equivalent to 2% [later elevated to 7%] of the total income for ticket revenue of the games disputed by the relevant clubs in every category, plus the transfer of players and the TV rights of the tournaments disputed by these clubs in every category.

As many clubs are currently in economic difficulties, the income generated by the sale of a player is a convenient way to arrange for the discharge of any debts that they may have with the National Social Security System and suspend ongoing enforcement proceedings. Article 1 of the decree provides:

A collection and withholding regime is established for the payment of the personal and labor contributions to the regimens established in laws 19.032.... (social security regulations) for professional football players, medical, technical and auxiliary staff in charge of professional football squads in any category and any other employees dependent from the Argentine Football Association and clubs participating in tournaments organized by the said association in first (Primera A), second (Nacional B) and third (Primera B) division, with the Argentine Football Association acting as collection and withholding tax agent.

So technically, the transfer itself is not taxable in a strict sense; it is a collection and withholding of social security taxes then owing at the time of the transfer.

Fee to the Argentine Football Fédération

There is a 2% fee payable by the club to the Argentine Football Fédération.4 If the transfer is domestic, 2% is payable by each club.

Article 214 (Transfers) of the Argentine Football Federation Regulations states:

The selling and the buying clubs, to have the transfer authorized, shall fulfill the following requirements: a) Both clubs shall pay at AFA´s treasury an amount equivalent to a 2% of the total amount of the operation. These amounts will be destined to support the expenses of the national team, and a special bank account will be open to that effect.

There is also a 0.5% fee payable to the Player's Union as agreed between the Union and the Argentine Football Association in 2001.5

Stamp duty

Finally, there is a stamp duty levied on the contract, which ranges from 0.8% to 1.2% depending on the jurisdiction under which the document is signed.

 

Comment

These levies have a considerable impact in any player transfer. In particular, they make the first payment crucial because, according to the national labor and fiscal rules,6 the taxes and levies must be entirely discharged before the release of the player’s International Transfer Certificate (ITC), even if the total payment is agreed in installments. If these contributions are not paid prior to the release of the ITC, the club and the national association are jointly liable for these amounts and can be subject to penalties and sanctions7 including fines up to 100% of the amount at stake and –at least in theory- even 2 to 6 years of prison.

This rule is in clear contradiction with art.9.1.3 of the FIFA RSTP,8 which declares null and void any condition that limits the issuance of the ITC. Clubs have been sanctioned by FIFA in the past for including such clauses in transfer agreements.9 Thus, when agreeing the payment schedule in a transfer, Argentine clubs face the danger of being sanctioned either by FIFA or by the taxation authorities.

The levies also affect the way Argentine clubs negotiate transfers, and especially the payment schedule that they are willing to accept. Although the levies are the responsibility of the selling (Argentine) club, the seller will effectively pass on the costs to the buying club by demanding a “net” transfer amount, and then adding on an additional 27% that the buyer must also bear.

As confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Genoa Cricket and Football Club SpA v Club Bella Vista,10 the levies are an integral part of the transfer price and therefore count for the purpose of calculating of the solidarity mechanism payable to the clubs that trained the player between the ages of 12 and 23. This represents an additional cost increase.

As to the payment, while for financial and regulatory reasons (i.e. compliance with financial fair play regulations) a buying club will usually be interested in paying the transfer fee in installments, Argentine clubs will generally try to negotiate as much as possible upfront (as they have to pay the levies on the entire transfer value (even if the fee is paid in installments)) at the moment of the ITC release (and the selling club may also need part of the transfer fee to replace the transferred player.

In summary, every club that targets a player from an Argentinean team shall be aware of these regulations in order to assess the real and final costs of the transfer and also to design a payment schedule that fits the needs of the buying but also of the selling club in order to complete the deal.

 

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Author

Ariel Reck

Ariel Reck

Ariel is a lawyer in Argentina focused exclusively on the sports sector, mainly the football industry. He has particular experience advising on third party player ownership issues, player´s transfers and international sports disputes before FIFA and CAS. He has also spoken at conferences on these issues in Argentina and at international level.

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