“Shein tax” episode puts influencers on a tightrope – 04/18/2023

The episode of taxation of international purchases below US$ 50 puts influencers on a tightrope. Their entry into politics is a rather curious phenomenon of our time. Influencers are more like anti-politics than politics, but they have recognized importance in this scenario.

Politics works with concrete facts, doubts and building bridges. Influencers work with excessive certainty, catchphrases and peremptory condemnation of opponents, the burning of bridges.

In this episode – which no one seems to have fully understood until now – the political world follows, but the influencers are in hot water.

Federal Revenue Secretary Robson Barreirinhas announced the measure and guaranteed that the government would not go back. There was the first challenge, which I detailed in a previous column.

The idea of ​​taxing individual remittances below US$ 50 had come from former Economy Minister Paulo Guedes. At the time, famous influencers had said that you had to hate the poor to adopt something like this. When the Lula government announced the measure, they had to calibrate their speech again to praise definitively.

It is obvious that the target of the measure is not individuals who send things of small value from abroad, but those who take advantage of the breach to evade. Commercial services make shipments as if they were individuals and break up the goods so that they are not taxed. This has already created an entire economic ecosystem that takes advantage of the gap.

If we were not in the economy of attention and in the apotheosis of superficiality, the subject would be discussed as what it is, tax policy. We hope that such a topic will be thought about seriously. However, this is not how he is treated by influencers in politics.

The same measure can come from heaven or hell depending on who announces it. That’s how it was handled, unfortunately.

We have now discovered that this dynamic has a limit, people’s pockets. When it hits the pocket, there is no influencer capable of defending the government just by signaling virtue, appealing to fifth-rate morality and seeking purity. It’s an important lesson.

Perhaps this assessment made President Bolsonaro reject the measure, contrary to the wishes of his Minister of Economy. It seems that it was the same path taken by the Lula government, but with one difference, the participation of the first lady who, officially, is not part of the government.

Soon after the announcement by the Lula government, influencers rushed to explain the measure with an impressive charge of moral appeal and purity. We all have to make sacrifices to fight tax evasion, they argued. There were those who called for disrespect for human rights by companies that sell products that are too cheap.

What to say when the government gives up the measure? Some simply pretended that nothing happened. Follow the dance. Tomorrow there will be a new polemic, inflated by excess of certainties, moral appeals and signs of virtue.

Mathematics and reality, fundamental to elaborate tax policy, are the great victims of history. There is a tax evasion through the exemption loophole for personal orders below US$50. How to deal with it?

Many countries decided not to tax low-value orders, whether from individuals or legal entities. The cost of investigating and charging is not worth it, the account does not close. In the United States, which is strict with the payment of taxes, everything below US$ 800 is exempt. Above that, there is rigor.

We could discuss what is Brazil’s magic number. It is certainly possible to calculate a value above which it is worth investing in the investigation and collection of taxes. We need to know how to deal with services like Ebay or Mercado Livre, in which the platform does not sell products, it facilitates the sale by third parties who can act as natural persons.

Turns out this is all too boring to get attention. Better to invest in absolute truths spewed by influencers. We can only pray that the elaboration of the tax policy is done through more technical paths than this one.

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