New edition of Supreme in Numbers explores Supreme Federal Court’s decisions regarding tax law

FGV Rio de Janeiro Law School study looks at decisions since 1988 and presents key topics for thinking about tax reform
29 July 2020
New edition of Supreme in Numbers explores Supreme Federal Court’s decisions regarding tax law

The latest edition of “Supreme in Numbers,” produced by the Fundação Getulio Vargas Rio de Janeiro Law School, explores the Supreme Federal Court’s decisions in the field of tax law since 1988. The study addresses essential issues that should be included in proposals and discussions regarding tax reform in the country.

The study looks at eight broad areas, including the most common subjects of tax lawsuits seen by the Supreme Court and the role of federal, state and municipal governments in these processes.

Highlights of new edition of Supreme in Numbers:

Between 1988 and 2018, the three most common subjects of tax lawsuits judged by the Supreme Federal Court were ICMS, tax credits and social contributions. Together, they accounted for 17.16% of these cases. PIS and COFINS accounted for 3.63% and 3.39% of cases, respectively. Taken together, they represented 7.02% of cases, exceeding the proportion of lawsuits related to ICMS (6.59%). Lawsuits related to social contributions were the most numerous.

In practically all the years analyzed, there were many lawsuits involving the federal government, reflecting the concentration of taxes at this level of government, and consequently its greater involvement in tax-related disputes judged by the Supreme Federal Court.

Even when it comes to private law, public sector organizations such as partially or fully state-owned companies are the main players. Of the 10 biggest private law litigants identified in the study, four are partially or fully state-owned companies.

The federal government wins more than half of its lawsuits, state governments win around half of cases, and municipal governments win approximately a third of them. Municipal governments have a higher success rate than the federal and state governments in obtaining tax injunctions against taxpayers.

When it comes to lawsuits related to “contributions” (the list of delinquent debt owed to the government, ICMS, IPI, ISS and IPTU), the tax authorities win more than 70% of disputes on average. They only win fewer than half of lawsuits in the case of IPTU.

There is a close correlation between the size of each state’s economy and the number of lawsuits on tax law in the Supreme Federal Court. Therefore, Sao Paulo dominates the ranking, but Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina are outliers, accounting for more cases than would be expected, based on the size of their economies. Rio de Janeiro, despite having the second biggest economy in the country, comes in ninth place out of the 10 biggest litigants.

The seventh edition of the Supreme in Numbers report, on the subject of Tax Law, is available in the FGV Digital Library.


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