Home / Practice areas / Expansion into Colombian Market

Expanding an existing business into the Colombian market is easier said than done.  Foreign clients have to determine the most tax-efficient corporate structure.  They also have to decide what type of legal and financial relationship any new Colombian business entity will have with the foreign company.  

Langon specializes in helping foreign clients analyze how best to expand into the Colombian market.  Our Business Law Practice Group assists clients in all aspects of this process including:

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  • Business Structure:

Analyzing the best business structure for your business which can include a branch office (“sucursal”) or a formal subsidiary (“subsidiaria”).

  • Business Startup Services:

Providing comprehensive legal assistance for your new business in Colombia including, but not limited to, registering the new business entity, drafting key legal documentation like company Bylaws (“Estatutos”) and Shareholder Agreements (“Acuerdos de Accionistas”), identifying required licenses and permits, hiring employees, and filing patents, trademarks and copyrights.

  • Business Management:

Providing ongoing assistance for your new business in Colombia including, but not limited to, general bookkeeping, accounting, payroll, and HR management services as well legal assistance in connection with monthly, quarterly and annual regulatory obligations.

  • Exporting Services:

Analyzing whether your business qualifies for an exemption to local VAT (“IVA”) tax obligations if your local business entity is not selling products or services in the local market.

  • Transfer Pricing Analysis:

Drafting a formal transfer pricing analysis to minimize tax-related risks to overall multinational business structure.

Corporate Structure

At a minimum, the S.A.S. form requires a shareholder and a legal representative. A board of directors is not required. An auditor may be required depending on the size of the company or the specific industry.

Legal Representative

Unlike other countries, the title of “legal representative” is crucial in a Colombian company. A legal representative will have complete access to the company’s books and bank accounts and will be able to bind the company when signing legal agreements. Keep in mind that the legal representative should be someone who is based in Colombia as legal representatives will need to sign documentation on a regular basis. This is why many foreign investors grant legal representation status to their local legal counsel or local manager.

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Corporate Flexibility

The S.A.S. form has a great deal of flexibility: (i) one person may own all the ownership interests in the S.A.S.; (ii) the same person can be sole shareholder, legal representative and manager; (iii) allows for the creation of a preferred stock structure; (iv) business may have a perpetual existence; (v) no obligation to maintain a reserve on its books (as is the case with other legal forms); (vi) no obligation to pay a minimum dividend (as is the case with other legal forms); (vii) no need to register a public deed in connection with its registration (as is the case with other legal forms); and (viii) allows for private mediation/arbitration for disputes between shareholders.

Registration Process

Registration via (i) written bylaws that are signed and notarized under Colombian law or (ii) written bylaws that are signed at the local chamber of commerce. Registration valid only after company is listed on the business registry (“Registro Mercantil”) of the local chamber of commerce.

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Company Name

You will have a great deal of flexibility when choosing the name of your company, though there are certain limitations. For example, the name of your company cannot be similar to the name of another company already registered. In addition, you cannot use certain names that are considered against “the public interest.” At the end of the name you need to include “sociedad por acciones simplificada” or the more traditional “S.A.S.”

Business Purpose

To register a S.A.S. you will need to specify at least one purpose for the company, though you can also add that it may conduct any business that is allowed under Colombian law.

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Limited Liability

The S.A.S. form grants shareholders broad limited liability. Note that the corporate veil may be pierced due to actual fraud and/or failure to maintain corporate formalities.

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Corporate Structure

At a minimum, the S.A.S. form requires a shareholder and a legal representative. A board of directors is not required. An auditor may be required depending on the size of the company or the specific industry.

Legal Representative

Unlike other countries, the title of “legal representative” is crucial in a Colombian company. A legal representative will have complete access to the company’s books and bank accounts and will be able to bind the company when signing legal agreements. Keep in mind that the legal representative should be someone who is based in Colombia as legal representatives will need to sign documentation on a regular basis. This is why many foreign investors grant legal representation status to their local legal counsel or local manager.

^
^
^
^

Corporate Flexibility

The S.A.S. form has a great deal of flexibility: (i) one person may own all the ownership interests in the S.A.S.; (ii) the same person can be sole shareholder, legal representative and manager; (iii) allows for the creation of a preferred stock structure; (iv) business may have a perpetual existence; (v) no obligation to maintain a reserve on its books (as is the case with other legal forms); (vi) no obligation to pay a minimum dividend (as is the case with other legal forms); (vii) no need to register a public deed in connection with its registration (as is the case with other legal forms); and (viii) allows for private mediation/arbitration for disputes between shareholders.

Registration Process

Registration via (i) written bylaws that are signed and notarized under Colombian law or (ii) written bylaws that are signed at the local chamber of commerce. Registration valid only after company is listed on the business registry (“Registro Mercantil”) of the local chamber of commerce.

^
^
^
^

Company Name

You will have a great deal of flexibility when choosing the name of your company, though there are certain limitations. For example, the name of your company cannot be similar to the name of another company already registered. In addition, you cannot use certain names that are considered against “the public interest.” At the end of the name you need to include “sociedad por acciones simplificada” or the more traditional “S.A.S.”

Business Purpose

To register a S.A.S. you will need to specify at least one purpose for the company, though you can also add that it may conduct any business that is allowed under Colombian law.

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Learning Center

Limited Liability

The S.A.S. form grants shareholders broad limited liability. Note that the corporate veil may be pierced due to actual fraud and/or failure to maintain corporate formalities.

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