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Brazil's president to pursue tax reform in 2017
[BRASILIA] Brazil will seek to simplify its tax code in 2017, President Michel Temer said on Thursday, aiming to expand business-friendly reforms following proposals to modify the pension system and labour laws.
Since taking office after the ouster of his leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff, Mr Temer has pledged to pursue structural reforms to lift Brazil from its deepest economic recession in decades.
This month, Congress sanctioned his proposal to limit growth of public spending for the next 20 years, clearing the way for votes on other measures. Brazil's generous pension system must be overhauled if the spending cap is to have real effect, officials say.
In a news conference in the capital Brasília, Mr Temer said he expects Congress to swiftly approve his plans to simplify the hiring of workers on temporary contracts, saying lawmakers have shown "strong support" for his agenda.
"Why not pursue tax reform now that plenty of bills have advanced?" Mr Temer said, adding that his government would work hard to achieve the reform next year.
Economists have long criticised Brazil's complex tax system as a barrier to long-term growth. Companies in Brazil spend on average 2,038 hours to do their taxes or about 12 times the average in the wealthy OECD group of nations, according to the World Bank's "Doing Business" index.
Mr Temer's advisers have floated a proposal to unify the federal PIS and Cofins taxes to fund social security. The government could also negotiate with states to unify an inter-state tax known as ICMS, a measure considered crucial to reduce legal uncertainties.
A government source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Thursday that the reform could include simplifying the tax regime of the oil and gas industry, as well as changes to levies on the financial system and the reduction of red tape in general.
"These are the general ideas of what should be done. It is still in embryonic stages," said the official, who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to speak publicly.
On Thursday, Mr Temer also promised to support any Congressional efforts to reform Brazil's political framework, a messy multiparty system that critics say makes Brazil's electoral politics complicated and often corrupt.
"The theme of political reform belongs to Congress, but we'll incentivise it and support it," he said.
Some lawmakers have called for rules limiting the proliferation of parties, blamed for fostering corruption by demanding broad coalition and deal-making in Congress.
There are currently 35 parties registered in Brazil's electoral court, with 26 represented in the lower house of Congress.