SAO PAULO, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Brazilian presidential hopeful Aecio Neves said on Monday he would consider taxing large fortunes as part of a broader push to overhaul the country’s tax code, a surprise admission from a candidate who is widely seen as pro-business.
The idea is a vote-getter in a country where the gap between rich and poor remains among the widest in the world, but it is not expected to go down well among the wealthy who are looking to Neves to lower Brazil’s heavy tax burden.
Neves said a tax on super wealth was on his agenda, and he would be discussing the idea with his economic advisers.
“We can discuss a different tax for large fortunes. We don’t have a percentage in mind yet,” Neves told reporters in Sao Paulo. “We have to study the benefits, how it would impact federal revenues, to see if would be justified.”
Brazil has no wealth or inheritance taxes. The leftist ruling Workers’ Party drafted a wealth tax last year as the government’s fiscal savings deteriorated in a slowing economy. But the proposal never took off.
Efforts to tax fortunes have faced fierce opposition in the past, but massive protests last year against the poor quality of education, health and public transport services may have created more fertile political conditions for taxing the wealthy.
Neves has put tax reform at the top of his platform, vowing to simplify Brazil’s complex and onerous taxation system. Brazilian companies need 2,600 hours a year to do their taxes, compared with an average of 369 hours in Latin America and 175 hours in nations of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to a World Bank study.
Opinion polls show the Workers’ Party is facing its toughest election since taking office in 2003 that will likely go to a second-round runoff in late October between Neves and President Dilma Rousseff, who remains ahead in the polls thanks to social programs that have reduced poverty and inequality.
Neves is campaigning to restore investment in Brazil’s once-booming economy by reducing the cost of doing business, which would require tackling heavy taxes and labor costs to make the country’s manufacturers more competitive.
Neves is expected to do well in the more affluent areas of southeastern Brazil, but elsewhere he is little known and has struggled to shed his image as a member of the country’s elite. (Reporting by Eduardo Simões and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Leslie Adler)