BRASÍLIA – Target of criticism around the increase in fuel prices, the Petrobras has registered an effective rate of payment of taxes on profit much lower than would be expected by the tax rates in force in the Brazil.
From 2008 to 2021, according to figures in its balance sheet, the state-owned company profited BRL 403 billion and effectively collected it from the company’s coffers. IRS around R$ 62.7 billion in Corporate Income Tax (IRPJ) and Social Contribution Net Income (CSLL).
The amount is equivalent to 15.6% of the profit obtained in the period, a rate more than twice lower than the combined rate of the two taxes charged by the Federal Revenue Service, of 34%.
Even when tax payments on interest on equity are included in the account, which corresponds to a special type of dividend distributed to shareholders, the total volume does not exceed BRL 74 billion or 18.4% of profit with the deductions allowed. in the legislation.
The calculations were made by economist Júlia Braga from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF). The researcher defends greater taxation of CSLL and says that the collection of Export Tax (IE) on oil sales to the foreign market is very welcome.
Petrobras’ low taxation, at a time when its profits had strong increases with the rise in oil prices, gained the spotlight after the president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira (PP-AL), waved a measure to double Petrobras’ taxation in response to the company’s announcement of the price readjustment of diesel and gasoline. In addition to the rise in CSLL, a project to tax exports is among the proposals being discussed by the leaders to fund a diesel subsidy, as anticipated by the Estadão.
“It’s a low taxation even in the international comparison with countries that are big exporters”, says Julia Braga. According to her, Brazil is one of the countries in which the Petroleum contributes less to total revenue given its size and the tax burden that other sectors pay.
The request of Estadãothe UFF researcher calculated that doubling the CSLL, from the current 9% to 18%, would guarantee an extra revenue to the government of R$ 13 billion.
Taxation with the IE at a rate of 9% would lead to an additional collection of BRL 20 billion. Already a rate of 20% would yield R$ 44 billion in revenue. The calculations were made with the average price of a barrel of oil in 2022 of US$ 110.
“I see more advantages in IE because, with the series of deductions allowed, the effective rate of CSLL would fall by half”, he says. In his assessment, IE is less susceptible to tax planning and can also play a role in encouraging companies to invest in domestic oil refining.
Lower tax burden
The fact that the effective tax burden is lower than that theoretically applicable on profit is nothing new in Brazil. Estimates from the former director of the Independent Tax Institution (IFI)Rodrigo Orair, indicate that, on average, the effective rate of large Brazilian companies, which pay tax based on real profit, is around 27%.
But the case of Petrobras began to draw the attention of specialists more than a decade ago, after the new pre-salt discoveries, when they found that the difference between the book value of tax declared on the balance sheet and the effective amount paid to the federal coffers increased. significantly.
At the time, the suspicion of the auditors of the Federal Revenue fell on the way in which the company was deducting the investments in the new oil platforms.
While in the balance sheet these investments were deducted from profit only in proportion to their wear (or depreciation, in economic-accounting language), in the calculation of profit for the purpose of effective tax collection, the expense was deducted all at once.
The curious thing is that this way of deducting the investment was provided for in a decree-law of 1966 and only benefited Petrobras, since it had been conceived when the state owned the monopoly of oil exploration.
The Revenue tried to bar the deduction, but lost in the Board of Directors of Tax Appeals (Carf) in 2017, leading the Temer government to revoke the decree-law and, in its place, create an equally advantageous accelerated deduction mechanism for all companies in the sector.
Even after that, however, the gap between tax recorded and tax paid remained wide. In 2021, for example, when Petrobras’ profit before tax calculation reached R$151 billion, the current IRPJ/CSLL (after deferrals) recorded in the balance sheet was R$22.7 billion and the amount paid was only R$22.7 billion. $11.6 billion.
According to Petrobras’ advice, the differences between the accounting tax and the amounts paid are due to several factors, including the offsetting of previous losses and the deduction of tax incentives, such as Exploration profit, Technological Innovation, Food Program workers’ rights and incentives for culture and sport.
There is also the so-called deferral, which is the transfer of payment to subsequent years that will impact the calculation of these taxes in the future, when these revenues and expenses are carried out for tax purposes, according to the company.
In response to the report, Petrobras says that, for the fifth consecutive year, it is among the ten companies with the most transparent financial statements in Brazil.
For specialists, regardless of the legality of the procedures adopted by the company, this gap between what the IRPJ should generate revenue and what companies actually pay.
“With oil above US$ 100, the average net return on investments in the oil sector exceeds 30% per year. There is a huge amount of fat to be taxed”, says economist Sergio Gobetti.
For lawyer Luiz Bichara, from Bichara Advogados, the way out to tax more companies that have extraordinary profits should be simple: progressive rates. “The Constitution itself, in its article 145, provides that, whenever possible, taxes will be progressive. Therefore, progressive rates according to profit are enough”, says Bichara.