International visitors to Argentina should go out on their hotel balconies and belt out the good news: The government is waiving the value added tax on lodgings. This means more money to spend on tango lessons, Malbec wine and flank steak.
The executive order, which went into effect Jan. 2, offers tourists a direct and automatic refund of the 21 percent tax, one of the highest in the world. It removes the tax on all lodgings throughout the country’s 23 provinces, from upscale city hotels to rugged estancias in the countryside. It also applies to breakfast services associated with overnight stays.
The decision to remove the charge is part of the government’s larger plan to open up Argentina after decades of insularity and political turmoil.
“It’s a sign of good things to come,” said Gonzalo Robredo, executive director of the tourism office of Buenos Aires. “We are working toward strong tourism development and facilitating travel for international visitors.”
Travelers have several other reasons to rejoice, as well. In August, Americans received an exemption from paying the $160 reciprocity fee. They can now enter the country at no charge. (No such luck for Canadians and Australians.) In 2015, the new president, Mauricio Macri, lifted controls over the Argentine peso, allowing the local currency to float freely with the U.S. dollar. The black market is out; ATMs are in.
The rebate is only available to visitors who can prove, with a valid passport or identification card, that they live abroad. They must also pay with a non-Argentine credit card or bank transfer from another country. The hotel will remove the charge at the time of billing.
The savings are significant. On average, midlevel properties cost $100 to $200. For example, rates at Home, a boutique hotel in the Palermo Hollywood neighborhood of Buenos Aires, start at $115; about $24 will go back into your wallet. Higher-end properties charge twice as much. A night at Faena Hotel Buenos Aires, a luxury hotel near Puerto Madero, starts at $459.
What to do with the spare cash? Throw the VAT a farewell party with a tango show at Esquina Carlos Gardel or a dinner for two at La Cabrera, a popular steakhouse in BA.