BUENOS AIRES Dec 11 Argentina's lower house
passed early on Thursday a package of tax breaks that the
administration hopes will stimulate the economy but critics say
could encourage money laundering instead.
The bill passed 132 to 83 at 3 a.m. and now goes to the
upper house where President Cristina Fernandez's Peronist party
and allies also have a majority.
The law includes huge tax cuts on undeclared offshore funds
that are repatriated, tax incentives for companies that put
under-the-table workers on the books, and deals for tax evaders
who sign up for payment plans.
The no-questions-asked policy for bringing back undeclared
funds drew fire from critics who said it would aid organized
crime, but ruling-party lawmakers said money laundering laws
"The application of this law does not mean anyone is exempt
from obligations" under the money-laundering law, said Peronist
deputy Agustin Rossi.
After six years of robust growth, Argentina's economy is
slowing down along with the rest of the world, and the
government has announced a series of measures to protect jobs,
including subsidized auto and consumer loans, and $21 billion
for public works.
The slowdown has hit Argentina at an awkward time, when
public finances were already looking tight as debt obligations
soar in 2009. Officials have not said how much tax revenue they
hope to generate with the bill passed on Thursday.
"The only objective is to sustain cash flow with money that
comes from money laundering, from terrorism or drug
trafficking," said opposition deputy Patricia Bullrich, of the
According to local media, Argentines have parked an
estimated $140 billion offshore.
(Reporting by Lucas Bergman; Writing by Fiona Ortiz;
Editing by Eric Beech)