Contributors from Argentina were asked three questions: What were the highlights/trends in your market last year? (i.e. important mergers, regulatory changes, economic situation etc.); What are the opportunities and challenges for accounting firms in the market?; What are the expectations for the future short/medium/long term?
By Alejandro Casal, managing partner at Casal Vecchi Rodriguez Spuch y Asoc S.R.L. Buenos Aires
In this changing environment, companies need to be extremely competitive to succeed.
Therefore, it is time for accounting firms to collaborate with their clients to improve business efficiency, streamline processes and to drive innovation.
Our firm is involved in a very aggressive process to improve the use of technological tools through training, as well as encouraging our people to think in innovative ways.
There are not many short-term expectations because of the residual effects of measures taken to address the country’s macroeconomic situation. There are very good expectations in the medium and long terms because these measures will bear fruit.
By Crivelli Sergio, partner director, BDO Argentina
In the short term, we expect to be able to sustain the levels of profitability that allow us to continue investing, with the aim of being prepared for when our economy reaches the better conditions anticipated.
In the medium and long term, we expect to compete in the local market with the main audit and consulting international firms providing audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing services to the main multinational and national companies operating in our country or wishing to settle with new investments.
By Esteban Basile, CEO Crowe Horwath Argentina
Following the change of government in December 2015, a number of changes in economic policies took place, which are generating slow but steady growth, a better economic situation and a positive outlook for the medium term.
Even though 2016 was a difficult year, based on the promissory landscape generated by new government policies, a growing number of local and foreign companies are considering new investments in Argentina, which will create new business for our firm.
There is a trend to accelerate the adoption of the international accounting and audit standards, as well as regulations required by OECD and other international bodies, which related mainly to corporate governance and countering money laundering.
One of the most important changes in audit and assurance standards is the audit report, with the introduction of Key Audit Matters, which will be mandatory for all listed companies. The profession is working with the regulatory bodies with the aim of accomplishing a smooth transition to this new standard
By Matías Tejero, partner, Hugo Tejero & Associates (Morison KSi Independent Member)
The most important events to highlight are ones ongoing for market stabilization and the reinsertion of Argentina into the world. The results of the primary elections held in August showed that the government has popular support for its long-term economic policy, beyond other situations that has not been solved yet: inflation, rising rates, fiscal deficit and employment. The population is fully aware of the dramatic situation in which the country was left in after more than a decade of mismanagement.
Also, it was not possible to achieve magical solutions in the short term. However, the fiscal deficit is reducing, being today 10% lower than a year ago and GDP is slowly growing again. Growth is not generalized to all sectors, but little by little more sectors are showing positive results.
Stabilising internal situation in a context of parliamentary minority has not been an easy task, but achievements in international politics in such a short time are even more remarkable. Restabilising free international trade after being self-excluded and having closed commercial frontiers presented a very complex scenario and its being carried out successfully. To put this into context, it is important to note that Argentina went from being sanctioned by the WTO in early 2015 for its protectionist policy to host the WTO Ministerial Conference, to be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017.
Argentina will also hold the presidency of the G20 from December 2017 and will host the United Nations Conference on Cooperation in March 2019. For the first time, Argentina is in command of the South American Union of Nations (UNASUR), a regional space for cultural, economic, social and political integration, and for the second consecutive time, was present at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Progress is also being made in agreements between MERCOSUR, European Union and European Free Trade Association.
Furthermore, in less than a year, Argentina received visitors such as Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, Mike Pence, vice-president of the United States, Philip Hammond, Minister of Economy of the United Kingdom, Julie Bishop, Australian Chancellor, Sergio Mattarella, Italian President, and World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim. During his mandate, President Macri held meetings with the heads of state in the United States, China, Japan and Netherlands.
All of these meetings were focused in the development of trade between Argentina and the world.
Moreover, Argentina signed, together with 67 other countries, a Multilateral Agreement to implement measures related to tax agreements in order to prevent erosion of tax bases and diversion of benefits (Project BEPS). It will also help in resolving conflicts related to treaties, thereby reducing double taxation and increasing fiscal security, as well as being a way of getting closed to join the OECD (currently only Mexico and Chile are part of this organization in Latin America)
In order to successfully reach the proposed objectives, the Government plans a comprehensive tax and labour reform. This process, both in the public and private sector, will require involvement and participation of highly trained professionals.
Knowledge-based services currently represent the third largest export sector (+46.000 KBS firms are established in Argentina). Accounting services are part of this category and thanks to the high level of professionals in the country; many markets have been opened to which services are being exported.
Furthermore, the Government has just launched a program of loans for exporting companies to promote their internationalisation by making investments in other countries. This will change the paradigm for many entrepreneurs and finance professionals, who until now worked in the acquired side and now will be on the acquirer´s one.
There is no doubt that the business climate in the country has improved significantly and many companies are setting up, with small operations at this early stage, but will grow significantly if the country continues along this path, improving its development.
Argentina, due to this new role in the global economy, requires an international financial and trade architecture that is geared towards strong, inclusive, sustainable and balanced economic growth. Not only aims to stabilize internal market but also to position itself again as leader and reference for Latin America. These, certainly, will represent significant opportunities and challenges for accounting and financial professionals in Argentina.
By Julian Laski, international liaison partner, PKF Audisur
In Argentina, the accounting profession has shown an increase in its complexity due to the existence of a dynamic business environment characterized by a higher demand of clients in general, and especially in the tax area. New tax regulations have been a constant in the process of transformation and modernization which the country has experienced by adapting to international standards.
During the last years, and as part of a convergence objective towards best practices at a global level, Argentina has adopted IFRS in different regulated areas. Starting 2018, banks and financial entities will also be compelled to apply IFRS as their regulatory framework as it is already happening with companies under the supervision of the National Securities Commission (CNV). This situation will require more specialized audit professionals and will create a new opportunity for most of the firms.
On the other hand, the tax amnesty and money laundering process which took place in the last months has considerably affected the firms’ work scheme that have noted how the incomes proportion of the tax area has become more significant. Likewise, continuous demands of regulators like the Central Bank of Argentina (BCRA), the National Securities Commission or the Financial Information Unit (UIF – Prevention of Asset Laundering) have required a greater specialization of professionals.
The creation of the Argentinian Forum of Firms of External Auditors (FAFAE), being PKF Audisur actively involved in such process, has been an important milestone to ensure the dissemination of good audit practices. In this context of financial IFRS professionalization, homogenization of regulations and a trend towards adopting NIIF within organizations, the Forum intends to be a sphere which fosters the uniformity of work methods and a place where firms of similar size can share experiences. Additionally, it has the mission of improving the quality control system of the firms while spreading professional achievements in the country.
The market of Audit and Consulting firms in Argentina has had a sustained stability in the last years, repeating a trend of previous years. The local market, one of the largest in Latin America, has a significant presence of global business actors and a great amount of medium and small firms with technical expertise which have increased their competitiveness level in the market. In this sense, the situation for audit firms has not been simple since there have not been mergers of great proportions and the economic situation is still in a recovery phase; moreover, businesses in general are suffering the effects of high inflation with an overvalued exchange rate – a highly appreciated peso.
In any case, prospects are encouraging. Slowly but surely, the economic activity in the country has started to recover and foreign investments are finally arriving to Argentina. Regional economies, led by agriculture activity and renewable energies, have begun to improve their situation and as a result work opportunities are having an important progress. This implies the possibility of gradually expanding the business horizon for the firms and also reducing uncertainty by encouraging the growth of incomes in the audit and consulting firms based on an improvement of the business environment.
In this respect, the challenge is that services provided by audit firms should join the companies’ growth and also enhance the quality of such services. In the short term, the trend suggests that firms should solidify their position while in the mid-term it is expected that companies and businesses join the increase of the firms’ activity level.
In a market where traditional audit services have transformed into a commodity whose rate has decreased in view of a strong competition, it is likely that in a long term the opportunity for firms relies on the provision of more specialized services, with a better rate, more trained human resources and aiming at specific niche markets. To this effect, the future of the profession seems to be attached to the provision of end-to-end solutions and the outsourcing of tasks that companies prefer to delegate rather than the expansion of traditional services already comprised by the great number of existing firms.
Similarly, the complex environment of diverse actors continues to indicate the need of providing services related to the regulatory enforcement, hence, the firms will be required to support market demands.
By Abelovich, Polano & Asociados, (a Nexia member Firm)
Last year (2016) was highlighted by a new economic conduction, due to the new President and Ministries who took office. New opportunities arose for inflow of foreign investment, which results (although still slow) are expected to have a significant impact in the near future.
Accounting firms have been working for being prepared to get involved in consultancy services, taxes, and audit of transactions related to investments of foreign companies mainly in the Energy (with special focus on renewable energy), Mining and Real Estate Industry, and to understand and give advice on the new regulations issued by the Argentine Authorities (Central Bank, Tax and Corporation Auth. Etc.)
Expectations for the next years are a significant increase in the economic ratios of Argentina, with the expectation to be classified as an Emerging Country starting FY 2018.