Igor de Souza holds an LLB from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo; a degree in tax law from the University of São Paulo; and a certificate in law firm leadership from Harvard Law School. Igor has an outstanding track record in federal administrative tax litigation before the Administrative Council of Tax Appeals of the Ministry of Finance, representing large national and foreign companies. He also has extensive experience in tax consultancy, having implemented tax-planning structures for legal entities, and wealth and estate planning and succession structures for families doing business in Brazil and abroad. Igor is a member of the International Fiscal Association, the Brazilian Association of Financial Law and the scientific board of the tax law journal Revista de Direito Tributário, published by Associação Paulista de Estudos Tributários.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Igor Souza
What is it about being a lawyer that you enjoy most?
I love being able to help clients collect the right taxes, free of arbitrariness from tax authorities.
What was the most difficult case you have ever worked on and why?
Throughout the years I have worked on several complex cases, but maybe the most difficult case I have had was a notice of tax deficiency in a purchasing transaction against a British bank that bought a big Brazilian bank. It was worth 1 billion reais in taxes and we won the case.
What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area?
With the constantly changing legislative landscape in Brazil, as well as several administrative and judicial updates, we have to keep on top of what’s new out there. The greatest challenges come up when a client receives a tax assessment.
According to the World Bank, it takes businesses in Brazil almost 2,000 hours to prepare tax fillings each year, compared to the global average of 236. Why is Brazil’s corporate tax regime so complex in your opinion?
Our tax system has a historical legacy and our legislation is full of exceptions and specific rules for each sector, which, of course, has to do with each sector’s lobbying power in Congress. Our tax model practically has an exclusive tax for each sector, for each type of taxpayer and each type of company, so accountants, legal professionals, judges, tax authorities have to navigate this.
In recent years, there has been a global push for greater tax transparency, but how exactly has Brazil worked towards improving transparency rules?
Brazil has been following the world trend and has signed different treaties, as well as implementing new rules that guarantee improvement on being transparent with taxation policies.
Given the ongoing debates about the need to overhaul Brazil’s tax system, what changes would you like to see implemented?
It would be great to see the number of taxes go down. It does not make sense for a company to have to pay five different taxes on the same revenues. I’d like to have exceptions removed and one single rule created, with no incentives and no tax cuts, and which is uniform for all. I’d also like to have some taxes unified, such as on goods, services and manufactured products. That would, without even changing tax rates, benefit the Brazilian tax system and taxpayers.
What is your best advice for clients looking to understand and comply with the numerous tax obligations?
Our tax system is just too complex, so clients absolutely have to hire good lawyers and accountants. Even though our tax laws make it difficult for anyone to be an expert, clients should try and learn the foundations of tax law, so they can have a better understanding of the quality of work being provided by their attorneys and accountants.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far, but what is your biggest achievement?
I am very happy with my achievements so far. I don’t think I can single out one achievement. I like to think I’ll keep moving forward and that my best years and career moments are still ahead of me.