"Tax justice was infected by Covid 19 and was in a long month in a coma," says tax official

Vânia Codeço, a lawyer at RFF & Associados - Sociedade de Avogados, reveals the unpreparedness of tax justice, particularly of the courts, and the slow response to the needs of pandemic management. It also notes that tax inspections and tax enforcement processes have stopped, with the tax courts operating on a logic of minimum services with the lockdown transforming them into an “almost absent” sovereignty body.

Vânia Codeço, a lawyer at RFF & Associados - Sociedade de Avogados, argues that tax justice “was infected by Covid 19 and was in a coma for many months and linked to the fans”, signaling “the system's general unpreparedness and slow response to the needs of management of this pandemic ”. Fiscalista realizes that the tax inspections and the processes of fiscal execution stopped, having the tax courts functioned in a logic of minimum services with the lockdown transforming them into an “almost absent” sovereignty body.

“Tax justice was infected by Covid 19 and was in a coma for many months, linked to fans”, defended Vânia Codeço, a senior associate at RFF & Associados at the “OE2021: Tax Proposals” conference that this company held this Tuesday , October 27, at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

Tax inspector reports on “paralyzed” tax lawsuits between March and September, which was aggravated by the judicial holidays, signaling that in the tax administration “tax inspections have stopped, tax enforcement processes have stopped” as well as administrative procedures, the gracious complaints, the hierarchical resources, the unofficial reviews, "all stopped".

Vânia Codeço advances that in the tax courts, which already in the pre-pandemic, were characterized by an excessively high number of judicial disputes, “the processes that were not urgent simply stopped also”.

“The dematerialization of the processes and the computerization of the courts, which has been implemented over the past few years, was of no use in the face of this pandemic. Even the arbitral tribunal, the CAV, has stopped ”, he adds, considering that“ society has metamorphosed ”.

Fiscalista explains that society had to adapt to teleworking, technologies, new ways of working and communicating. And he concludes: “but tax justice did not succeed. He did what he could. Courts functioned on a minimum service logic. The lockdown of the courts, made them an almost absent sovereignty body due to the daily presence of other sovereignty bodies in the management of this health crisis ”.

According to this inspector, the reasons given, valid or not, are several. Among them, he affirms, is the “legislative avalanche” that occurred in this period and that raised several interpretative doubts and that made it difficult to apply the law. Vânia Codeço continues: "also the uncertainty of the extent, duration and intensity of the behavior of this pandemic promoted a decrease in productivity in services", adding that "in the end, we were all seeing what was going to happen".

It signals here that the decrease in the productivity index may also be due to remote work by both court employees and tax administration employees. And also the difficulty of accessing non-accredited platforms or confidential information, protected by secrecy. “Therefore, none of this was planned and prepared”, he concludes.

For this lawyer, the very lack of technical and technological resources of court and AT officials, despite the fact that some computers and even mobile communication devices were distributed, “clearly was not enough”, considering that the overload of digital platforms, "Were not prepared to be used in mass". Vânia Codeço also points out other reasons such as “the lack of technical and technological conditions of the courts and even their resistance”.

Basically, he concludes, “the general lack of preparation of the system and the slow response to the needs of the management of this pandemic”. This inspector points out that tax justice was not expected to function normally as if nothing had happened. But, he argues, "in particular of the courts, as a sovereign body, an increased effort was needed to adapt more quickly and with less resistance to this new reality".

OE2021 without changes in tax justice

Regarding the matters on taxpayer guarantees provided for in the OE2021 proposal, Vânia Codeço emphasizes that this “does not bring any changes in the area of ​​tax justice”, highlighting, in the absence of proposals in this area, the changes that were introduced last July within the scope of Government law proposal that intends to simplify a series of procedures in the scope of the tax process. There are several amended diplomas: General Tax Law (LGT), Code of Procedure and Tax Procedure, General Regime of Tax Infractions, among others. Several of the proposals submitted are intended to enter into force only on 1 July 2021.

In the context of LGT, the lawyer at RFF & Associados recalls that the Executive intends to intensify the criteria for revising the general guidelines by the tax administration (circulars, regulations or instruments of the same nature) by introducing three objective conditions.

Thus, he explains, those guidelines will be reviewed by AT when they respect the matter considered in a summary decision by a higher court; there is a decision to standardize the jurisprudence issued by the Supreme Administrative Court; or there is repeated jurisprudence of the higher courts, manifested in five final and unappealable decisions in the same sense, without higher court decisions in the opposite direction also being final, in a higher number.

On the other hand, adds this expert, "the possibility for taxpayers to request their prior hearing is introduced when requesting binding information".


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