Gustavo Lian Haddad has extensive experience acting as a trusted adviser to local and international clients on their investments in the Brazilian market, with a focus on tax consulting on international matters, transactions and restructurings and tax litigation on high-profile cases. He is a professor at Insper, a former member of the administrative tax court (CARF) and one of Brazil’s most prominent tax lawyers, according to LACCA Approved, Chambers Latin America and The Legal 500.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Gustavo Haddad
Can you describe your career to date?
I started my career at the Brazilian Revenue Service, then I moved to KPMG where I started as a trainee and later became a partner with the international tax group. I moved to Lefosse in 2003 to develop and lead the tax practice for the firm. Today we have a full-service tax practice with seven partners and more than 40 fee-earners providing stand-alone tax advice and tax litigation for high-profile international and Brazilian clients. Over the years at Lefosse, I also took the position of managing partner for a number of years, during which I received the Latin America Law Firm Leader of the Year award.
Why did you decide to specialise in tax law?
I decided to specialise in tax because of the possibility to combine the different skills that acting in tax law requires: strong knowledge of the law, and tax law in particular, with accounting skills and arithmetical thinking.
What are the biggest challenges for lawyers in your field in Brazil?
The complexity and uncertainty involved in different areas of taxation are certainly the main challenges for lawyers in the field. Working in tax requires savviness and the ability to assist clients in making relevant and impactful decisions.
Brazil has a reputation for being one of the most complex jurisdictions in the world for accounting and tax compliance. Why do you think this is?
I believe three main factors contribute to the highly complex tax system in Brazil. Firstly, the taxation at different levels of government including federal, state and municipal, alongside a lack of centralised regulations. Secondly, the complex legislation is subject to constant changes. Thirdly, perhaps most importantly, the tax environment is highly litigious. Mechanisms to settle disputes between taxpayers and tax authorities do not exist and differences of interpretation have to be solved through tax litigation.
What could be done to improve the country’s tax regime, in your opinion?
In order to improve the tax regime in Brazil, the government should look to unify the indirect taxes that exist at different levels of government and create mechanisms to allow for a better dialogue between tax authorities and taxpayers.
You have plenty of experience advising national and international clients investing in Brazil. What would you say is key to being a good tax adviser?
Tax professionals tend to be very technical. It is important to combine a strong technical background with the ability to navigate the system and translate complicated matters into commercially feasible advice to clients.
What advice would you give a younger lawyer hoping to one day be in your position?
Focus on building a strong background in tax law and accounting, and look for opportunities in firms with reputable tax practices.
Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
Being part of the project of building an innovative and strong legal practice at Lefosse.