Total risk in Brazilian companies

by Roberto Dias Duarte

Bomb disposalHave you ever imagined what would happen if the study of medicine were restricted to understanding information leaflets? Would it be possible for doctors to treat patients properly with such limited knowledge? It seems to be a surreal idea, but this “technique” has been used to solve problems in the fiscal departments of almost all the companies in Brazil.

Deeply studying digital book keeping and knowing in detail each of the thousands of fields in the digital files that compose the Public Digital Book Keeping System (SPED) has been the medicine prescribed by many experts to try and solve the frequent and several mistakes and inconsistencies detected by tributary authorities when the received information is submitted to fiscal crosshairs.

The truth is that companies of all sizes have been penalized for these faults. In a single State, the Treasury Secretariat identified a considerable number of individuals who chose for Simples Nacional, and also individual micro entrepreneurs, purchasing much more than the allowed income limits.

In another State, half of the beer distributers have been selling to natural persons, who would then resell the product. Major corporations have been submitted to more and more intense supervision. There are many examples. Even the participants in the pilot-group that accompanies the project together with tributary authorities have been facing many difficulties.

The truth is that we live in a huge “tributary Facebook”, in which it is necessary to make information public concerning purchasing, sales, inventories, incomes, payments and tributary count. And all of that reaches the Treasury office in the blink of an eye, due to technology. Understanding this system and adapting to it simply began to represent the difference between a company’s success or bankruptcy.

However, trying to solve data inconsistencies only by analyzing the generated files does not fix the problem. On the contrary, it is important to understand the lack of integrity as a symptom, and not as the disease itself. Let’s see some real causes for these problems.

The absence of information systems that can register and process this great volume of data is one of the main factors leading to the generation of incomplete or inconsistent fiscal files. This characteristic is typical of small companies, and contrasts with another one that is present in large corporations: the use of different digital systems that do not communicate, or, when they do, they do it poorly. It turns out that fusions, acquisitions and incorporations create information liability of difficult and expensive solution. Even when other systems become more modern, which is currently common, this reality may be created given the difficulty, or even the impossibility, of migrating data.

On the other hand, we are subjected to the gigantic complexity of tributary regulations, with 54 norms published every day, 11 million combinations of tax calculations and 105 thousand aliquots just for Simples Nacional, besides hundreds of fiscal codes that, when combined, can produce millions of variations in accessory obligations.

This chaotic scenario, to say the least, leads to problems both in the reception and in the classification of documents from suppliers and declarations produced based on such registers.

Receiving the same product from different suppliers, with distinct codes, aliquots and tributary calculations, is a typical example of this reality, experienced today by most organizations.

Finally, the poorly qualified professionals who manipulate these data make the problem worse. It is worth to mention that all the departments of the companies are directly related to the information submitted to the treasury office concerning the database of clients, suppliers and products, being the latter mostly identified with incorrect fiscal classifications, or even units of measurement.

All of this shows us that, as the Brazilian industry went through a radical transformation in the 1990s, with the introduction of quality management methodologies, now Brazilian companies need to create methods to manage fiscal risk, by understanding that the quality of information in this field depends on the company as a whole, and not only on one or two departments.

So, it is essential to carry out cycles of planning, execution, inspection and adjustments, but before that, it is important to have a precise diagnosis of vulnerabilities that, for instance, allow the acceptance of wrong documents from suppliers.
Measuring the potential financial impacts and the statistical probability to concretize this risk is equally essential in order to prioritize and allocate the necessary resources for the simultaneous treatment of so many “diseases”. Depending on the result, it is possible to use different strategies, such as accepting the risk, reducing it, transferring it to others or even completely eliminating the risk.

Anyway, studying manuals and regulations of digital fiscal book keeping is the least to be done. In practice, companies need to create information management and fiscal risk models. Without that, the costs of conformity will reach unacceptable levels, and fines will definitely continue to multiply in Brazil.