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New Incentives for Call Centers in Panama

In the last two (2) years, different foreign companies such as MasterCard, Dell Computers and call center operators such as Atento, Sitel, BT and others have visited Panama, interested in setting up and operating call service centers, since there is a good amount of bilingual young people, competitive real estate prices, available space for rent or purchase, excellent living conditions for expatriate personnel, efficient telecommunications, plus Panama's dollar denominated economy.

However, a US$1.00 tax on international calls was a major road block, and thus despite all other incentives, Panama was non-competitive and taken out of the map of target countries for call centers.

A new Law No. 54 of 25th October, 2001, creates a powerful incentive by excluding all telephone traffic from so-called "Call Centers" from the payment of a US$1.00 tax imposed to all other international calls from Panama. In order to qualify as an exempted call center, any individual or corporation ("Call Center Operator') interested in setting up and operating such facilities must apply and obtain a License or Concession for the provision of commercial call center services from the Regulatory Entity for Public Utilities of Panama.

Upon obtaining the License or Concession for the provision of commercial call center services, the Call Center Operator may apply for all the benefits granted by the Export Processing Zones regulations which main exemptions are:

Exemption of all taxes, contributions, duties or import fees on all machinery, equipment, furniture, vehicles, appliances, or materials necessary for the development of the project.

Exemption of any national direct tax on capital.

Exemption of income taxes.

Exemption of any national direct tax on dividends and interests originated from securities issued by the company and traded in local or international markets.

Special immigration and labor regime.

This new legislative package is an interesting one, which surely will attract the attention of international call center operators.

Dr. Juan Francisco Pardini

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