The Regulation of Call Centers in Panama
Call centers for commercial use (also known as “call centers”) are regulated in Panama by Law 52 of 2018.
This regulation is the result of international standards requirements by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and other countries in the region, to extensively regulate the activity of call centers for commercial use. In Panama, the National Authority of Public Services ("ASEP", for its acronym in Spanish) is the competent authority that grants or rejects the application for obtaining a commercial call center license.
It is important to note that call centers in Panama, over the years, have been great generators of workplaces. This explains why with the new regulation, call centers receive certain tax benefits such as the exemption of direct and indirect taxes, contributions, fees, national duties and taxes.
Despite its success, call centers have been subject to controversy in recent years, perhaps because of their links with the political environment in the country. In this sense, the pressure of both the media and the citizens, have encouraged detailed regulation of call centers regarding the applicable tax regime. The regulation allows for call centers to be exempted from income tax in a fiscal period, as long as they comply with certain fundamental requirements.
Those requirements are:
i) maintaining an average of no less than five (5) full-time workers;
ii) incurring in operation expenses in Panama for no less than 70% of the total expense directly related to these services;
iii) submitting a sworn statement signed by the legal representative of the company and by an authorized public accountant, describing the activities carried out during the fiscal period, the total operating expenses incurred, and the number of workers in charge of executing the activities for the generation of the perceived income; and
iv) submitting the audited financial statements of the company.
Reports and statements
Currently, call centers’ regulations are more detailed and include reports and statements requested by ASEP to holders of commercial call center license in Panama. These reports are evaluated by the General Directorate of Revenues (“DGI”, for its acronyms in Spanish) as part of its oversight function for tax obligations and exemptions.
It should be noted that call centers are also subject to certain taxes, such as:
(i) 5% of dividend tax, paying only 2% of the complementary tax, in case there is no distribution of profits;
(ii) annual tax which will be 0.5% of the capital of the company;
(iii) selective tax on the consumption of certain goods and services;
(iv) immovable property transfer tax; and
(v) immovable property tax.
Finally, on Immigration, regulations for call centers aim to encourage this type of business, so that foreigners invest in Panama. Therefore, the regulations establish that foreigners that proves they have invested an amount of not less than US$250,000.00 United States dollars from a foreign source, will be entitled to apply for the permanent resident permit, as investors. On the other hand, foreigners hired as employees, have the right to apply for a temporary resident permit valid for the time of the employment contract.
 Law 52 of October 17, 2018 "That Regulates the Activity of Call Center for Commercial Use (Call Centers) and issues other provisions", published in G.O. No. 28637-A.
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