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Tax in Brazil: Nothing is certain

January 10, 2013

IN MID-2012 Eike Batista, until recently Brazil?s richest man, saw his empire battered. OGX, an oil firm he controls, said its wells were less productive than it had thought. By the end of the year Mr Batista?s fortune fell by two-thirds, to $12.4 billion. Now he is under attack on another flank. On January 8th MMX, his mining company, said it had been handed a bill relating to its activities in 2007, for 3.8 billion reais ($1.8 billion) for corporate income tax and social security, plus interest and fines.MMX says it will be fighting these ?totally baseless? charges. That adds it to a growing list of Brazilian firms battling the tax authorities over huge sums. The previous day Natura, a direct-sales cosmetics firm, said it was disputing 630m reais in federal sales taxes. In December Fibria, a paper-and-pulp firm, and Santos Brasil, a port operator, said they were being chased for 1.7 billion and 330m reais, respectively, in corporate income tax and social security. None of the four companies has made loss provisions; all say they regard the risk of having to pay as remote.Tax disputes are as Brazilian as string bikinis or samba. Petrobras, a state-controlled oil giant, is fighting a bill for 4.8 billion reais relating to the leasing of oil platforms between 1999 and 2002. Vale, a mining giant, is fighting four bills totalling 30.5 billion reais for tax on its foreign...

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