Tax reform in Brazil:an evaluation at the crossroads
Tax reform has been a central issue of the Brazilian economic debate for at least a decade. But despite the supposedly reformist resolution of several governments, very little was in fact achieved. The idea of reforming the country’s indirect taxation system is, once again, in the forefront of the government’s agenda. The complexity of Brazil’s fiscal federalism has been often and rightly mentioned as a major difficulty to the advancement of the tax reform. This paper tries to look beyond fiscal federalism and focus on difficulties of a different kind, that have to do with the sheer magnitude of the reform and the uneven sectoral distribution of the indirect-tax burden in the country. After an initial section providing a brief historical and institutional background, section B discusses the various tax-reform attempts that took place since 1997, and draws useful insights for the analysis of the political economy of the taxreform deadlock. Sections C and D look into indirect taxation in Brazil, calling attention to challenges entailed by the scale of the intended reform and the uneven sectoral distribution of the tax burden. The political economy of the involved difficulties is discussed in section E. Concluding remarks are presented in section F.
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