Ana Carolina Utimati has over 15 years’ experience in tax litigation. She acts on behalf of local and foreign clients from various sectors of the economy in high-profile administrative and judicial cases, having a strong presence in courts and in the definition of litigation strategies. She is recognised by LACCA Approved as a lawyer recommended in tax. Ana Carolina obtained her law degree from the University of São Paulo.
Questions & Answers
Thought Leaders 2021 - Interview with Ana Carolina Utimati
Can you briefly describe your career to date?
I started as a law student at Trench Rossi Watanabe in 1999. I developed my career there, first in tax consulting and litigation. After a few years, I decided to focus on tax litigation, which was my main practice there until I left, as a partner, in 2018.
I moved to Lefosse in 2018 to strengthen the tax litigation practice of the firm. I felt that this was an important challenge to my career and, also, a great opportunity. Almost three years later, I am proud to see that my contributions to Lefosse are making a difference and that the tax litigation practice is evolving, both in connection with the complexity of the cases and with the number of lawyers and cases.
What do you enjoy most about being a lawyer in your practice area?
The necessity to deeply understand the technical tax and procedural laws and to communicate this clearly and in a convincing manner to clients, judges and courts.
What was the most challenging case or transaction you have ever worked on and why?
Although it is difficult to name one case, I can highlight a group of cases that I handle for companies in the technology and entertainment industries. The Federal Revenue Department adopted the understanding that the amounts remitted by Brazilian entities as remuneration for the right to commercialise foreign software in Brazil would be royalties subject to specific deductibility limits.
I helped several companies in these sectors to defend tax assessments and, also, participated in discussions with the Federal Revenue Department to review this position. In one of the cases I handled, I was able to obtain a favourable decision at the administrative court, which created an important precedent.
The cases are challenging from a technical perspective because they combine tax, technology, IP and international laws, which are matters that are not commonly known by judges and courts. Also, from the clients’ point of view, the cases are critical because they involve the company’s core business.
What are the greatest challenges for lawyers in your practice area in your country this year?
Tax litigation is always a challenge, because of the complexity of the Brazilian tax system and the reduced cooperation between tax authorities and taxpayers. Specifically, in 2021, the Supreme Court and the Superior Court of Justice have issued (and will continue to issue) decisions on important tax and procedural matters, which will have effects on tax litigation cases for several years.
How do you expect your practice to evolve over the next five years?
I expect to continue to develop my practice, assisting clients in strategic tax litigation cases. The relatively recent change in the procedural rules and the unprecedented importance of judgments in the superior courts open a new road for development in tax litigation practice.
What do clients look for when selecting you as a lawyer?
I believe that clients look for strong technical knowledge, the will to understand their business, challenges and opportunities and clear and objective communication in meetings, petitions, legal opinions and other instances.
How would you like to see your law firm develop in the coming years?
Lefosse is already a strong player in key practice areas, including tax. In the coming years, I would like to see continuing development and growth of the tax litigation practice.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
In the past few years, as a partner, I have been focusing both on the assistance to my clients and on the development of a strong tax litigation team at the firm. I would like to see this team grow and to have recognition for its technical skills and for the complexity of the matters it handles.