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 2021 - Interview with Gustavo Haddad
Describe your career to date
As a young lawyer, I worked at the Brazilian Tax Revenue Service. I then developed a career at KPMG, where I started as a trainee and worked hard until I became a partner with the international tax group. I moved to Lefosse in 2003 to develop and lead the tax practice group of the firm.
Less than two decades later, we are now a full-service tax practice group with eight partners and more than 45 fee earners, advising clients on high-profile tax matters and litigating cases for premium international and Brazilian clients.
During my career at Lefosse, I was privileged to have acted as managing partner for several years, at which time, I was honoured to receive the Law Firm Leader of the Year award from Latin Lawyer.
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer in your practice area?
The possibility of combining a strong technical background with the need to translate complicated facts and concepts into user-friendly advice and arguments to clients and the courts.
What was the most challenging case or transaction you have ever worked on and why?
Over the years, I have worked on many interesting cases, and it would be unfair to try to name one or two as the most challenging. As examples of the type of work I do, I would mention, first, in my advisory capacity, the merger between Interbrew and Ambev to form the largest brewery company in the world. It involved a variety of skills, including international tax and accounting as well as interaction with advisors and lawyers from more than 10 jurisdictions. The second case I would mention, in my capacity as a litigator, is still ongoing (tax disputes in court tend to take a long time in Brazil) involving the ability of the Brazilian government to challenge the deduction of expenses made by the affiliates of Brazilian companies based abroad.
What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area in your country this year?
The complexity and uncertainty involved in different areas of taxation in Brazil is undoubtedly the main challenge. It requires savviness and the ability to assist clients in making relevant and effective decisions.
How do you expect your practice to evolve over the next five years?
I expect it to continue to grow and to expand to new sectors of the economy that have become more relevant, including on the digital front.
What do clients look for when selecting you as a lawyer?
They look for strong technical and communications skills and a trusted-adviser approach.
How would you like to see your law firm develop in the coming years?
Lefosse is already a strong player in key practice areas, with an approach that blends full-service capability with a hands-on and integrated practice spirit.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I am proud of what I have achieved over the years. One of the things I focus on in my career but which I would like to re-emphasise is team building. I strongly believe that a great firm is made of professionals with diverse skills and backgrounds, with the best traits and skills of each member playing the part.