I must, I don't deny it. But I also don't pay


Slowly, without fanfare, a small company became the star in the fuel distribution market in Rio de Janeiro. The company is called Rodopetro, was founded in 2004 in São Paulo, moved two years later to Rio and today leads ethanol sales in the state. It won powerful competitors such as BR Distribuidora (from Petrobras) and Raizen (merger of the multinationals Shell and Cosan). Of every 4 liters sold at stations in Rio, 1 comes from Rodopetro. There are 250 alcohol carts every month. The company's slogan appears right on the opening page of the website: “Here, ethanol is much cheaper”. And it is. The liter of alcohol sold by Rodopetro costs, on average, R $ 0,35 less than that distributed by its competitors. According to data from the National Petroleum Agency, Rodopetro, even operating only in the State of Rio, already accounts for 1% of the fuel distribution market in Brazil. How does Rodopetro do it?

If the answer had to do with efficiency, it would be an inspiring case of entrepreneurship. The answer seems to be related to another word: evasion. A 2007 state law, created to prevent evasion, determined that distributors must pay their taxes at the time when fuels enter the state - the rate of the Circulation of Goods Tax (ICMS) on ethanol is 24%. Rodopetro went to court and, in 2009, won: it could pay the tax the following month - as was the practice before the law. When paying, Rodopetro simply did not pay. According to the Attorney General of the State of Rio de Janeiro, who is responsible for collecting the debt, the official parrot is R $ 250 million. Not everything is summed up in the survey of prosecutors. The National Syndicate of Distributors, which gathers the large companies in the sector, estimates that, since 2009, Rodopetro has ignored R $ 70 million per year in taxes, for a total of R $ 350 million. That, say competitors, is the only explanation for such low prices.

The prices charged by Rodopetro are similar to those of another distributor, Trim. In February of this year, Trim was even disqualified by the Rio de Janeiro Finance Department for “unfair competition and fraudulent default”. A measure approved last December could lead Rodopetro to the same path. State tax authorities reached an agreement. It is now up to the states to decide sovereignly when taxes should be paid. Last July, Fazenda do Rio issued a decree requiring conditions for the payment of ICMS in the following month. The idea was to close in on evasion. Those who do not meet the conditions have to pay on the road - or alcohol is confiscated.

Collaboration: Sindicom
Source: Revista Época

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