The tributary who studies mythology


Source: Gazeta do Povo Online (Curitiba - PR) - 25/05/2012

Defender of the neutral ICMS, without any exemption and with the same rates for the whole of Brazil, the lawyer Sacha Calmon is against the prohibition of the states to use their expenses to make fiscal policy. The Minas Gerais accent deceives and makes one think that the tax lawyer is not Salvadoran. A Flamengo and Bahia supporter, Calmon justifies his choice by explaining that in Minas, the state where he lives, “he doesn't have a team”. A worshiper of sertão food, the former federal judge was able to visit the Northeast when he was still a child and accompanied his father, who was an engineer and worked on the Transnordestina railway. In the interview with Gazeta do Povo, Calmon defended the privatization of Brazilian infrastructure, the reduction of consumption taxes and a more flexible labor regime.

What is your opinion about the bill for the unification of ICMS taxes?

When the tax reform took place, in amendment number 1 of the 1966 Constitution, shortly after the 1964 Revolution, the ICM was created to replace the IVC. States levied sales and consignment taxes. It was a cumulative tax, it gave no credit. So it was an extremely inflationary tax. And we imported from Europe the introduction of VAT, a value added tax. At that time, the competence to collect value added taxes, which is the case with the ICMS, was either from the federal government, when the state was organized as a federation, or it was from the national state, because there were no states, there was no problem. This is the case of France, Portugal, Italy. In Germany there was already a state. Result: the competent one was the union. Brazil contradicted and allowed the states to become competent. But then it almost castrated their competence. It defined everything in a Senate resolution. The states did not give up and started to give incentives that they should not give, because this tax is incompatible with extra-fiscal purposes. Hence the fiscal war was born. This shooting that, in my opinion, delays the development of Brazil.

After this explanation, I say the following: I am in favor of neutral ICMS, without any exemption, without any reduction in the calculation base and with the same rates for the whole of Brazil and charged in the state of destination, as it is in Europe. It is now wrong to prohibit states from pursuing fiscal policy with their spending. States have to make this policy of attracting investments with expenditure, clearly, to know how much they are spending to attract companies, to promote industrial development, job creation. Because when you give up revenue, you don't know anything, you don't even know if the incentive policy is being productive or not. Especially because as it is a tax that has repercussions in other states, the consequence is that fight, this legal confusion, dangerous demand for credit and a bad business environment, there is a lot of uncertainty, legal uncertainty.

Minister Guido Mantega said that resolution 72, passed in the Senate, is the first step towards Tax Reform. Do you agree?

He is referring exactly to the ICMS Tax Reform, which is not imposed by him, is imposed by the states. This question of ports, originally, was to set a zero rate. Because you gave advantage, in any port, to not pay anything of ICMS. Now, in the subsequent transaction, you will pay an interstate or internal rate that is due, without credit. So the person who imported did not pay, but the person who charged the importer, will pay in his place. That was the idea, canceling the incentive by zeroing, that I don't transfer credit.

Because what the ports were doing was this: you don't have to pay anything and then I put in the tax book that you paid 18%, but you didn't pay. The taxpayer in the other state believed in that 18% and abated the tax he had to pay in the other state. And the other state said: I will not accept, you did not pay anything, you are transferring the burden to my consumer, because you did not give me any exemption, just transferred the moment of payment to him. So Mantega's idea was to eliminate this illegal incentive, and in the subsequent operation, with a full rate, zero imports were recovered. Then the states said they wanted compensation and put the rate at 4%. I mean, then you pay 4% and also only transfer 4%.

How do you think Brazil can face international competitiveness today, especially China, without being protectionist? It's possible?

I think so. We have to do, in the medium term, some things, like improving the infrastructure, which means privatizing it all. The federal government's investment capacity is 3,7% of GDP, we need 24% investment. It is also necessary to reduce consumption taxes, they are the ones that make things made in Brazil more expensive. And we must have a more flexible labor regime, if what is happening in Europe is not going to happen. It has a lot of protection and a lot of unemployment. Credit has to fall, these interest rates in Brazil are absurd, they are loan sharks. And lastly, the technological revolution, innovation. So our agenda is long term. Now, I think protectionism is not a good thing, because you accommodate those who are tight.

You are the author of the book The History of Judeo-Christian Mythology. What led you, as a lawyer, to dedicate yourself to this matter?

Because, incredible as it may seem, Law was born from religions. Because in the past, to make people stay on the straight path, the norm was religious. God punishes, God sends to hell, it was the Criminal Law, religious. And in law, to reward is to go to heaven. So actually, religions, if you look at it, they are myths, mythological. The book is very big, there are 800 and so many pages. And I bring the collection of great authors who have already dealt with the birth of law. It is a legal, critical view of religions.

Do you have any religion?

No, I'm an agnostic.

How long did it take you to write?

Five years. Basically it was an obsession, because I was raised very "catholically". My parents inculcated me with a religion very full of guilt, of sin, a religion of fear, and I decided to shake off this irrationality. We are even afraid to write and be punished, because there is already a terrible God, a punishing God.

What do you like most, now that the obsession is over?

I like good literature, everything that is good, good wines, good music.

What is your favorite literature?

I like the cop a lot, I like Agatha Christie, I like Dan Brown, I think he's outstanding. From Umberto Eco. From the Nobel Prize in Portugal, Saramago.

[Stop talking and watch a Euro game playing on television in the hotel lobby]

Do you like football?

I like.

What team do you support?

IM flamenguista.

But aren't you a miner?

I am, but there is no team there. I'm Bahia and Flamengo.

But Bahia?

It's because I was born there.

Which city in Bahia?


So you are from Salvador?

Soteropolitano, the city of Salvador. Sotero in Greek is the savior ...

And why did you adopt Flamengo?

I adopted Flamengo because Dad was an engineer. So he was making a railway, the Transnordestina, and I followed as a boy. And in the Northeast, of ten Northeasterners, eight are flamenco. In Piauí everyone is Flamengo. Flamengo fills the stadium. Flamengo can play there in any city in the Northeast where the fans are all Flamengo. I do not know why. There are very few Vasco's, Fluminense.

So, did you know the northeast enough during childhood?

I knew why the road left Salvador and went towards Sergipe, Alagoas, Paraíba, Pernambuco, it left. And I was between five and ten years old because of this road.