The COVID-19 crisis has brusquely forced businesses and professionals to close offices and work from home. Luckily, the Brazilian government began implementing measures relating to electronic filings and electronic signatures approximately 20 years ago, all of which have made closing aircraft deals from home offices relatively easy. The Brazilian Aeronautical Registry has adjusted some of its requirements on an interim basis to serve the aviation community by facilitating compliance with necessary formalities and filings.
Brazil's airlines are now being subjected to a withholding tax that has not been charged on most leases for more than three decades. Airlines may be able to successfully challenge the legality of the withholding tax; however, this will require dedication of legal and administrative resources that might have been used elsewhere to fortify the airlines. In any event, under the final text of the law, the likelihood of lessors being liable for withholding tax has been reduced significantly.
A draft law providing emergency relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been submitted to the lower house of Congress. The impact of the draft law on the rights of aircraft lessors would be significant and would place into question Brazil's compliance with the Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment.
The Federal Government recently issued an executive order with the potential to change the tax treatment of commercial aircraft leasing. Subject to that determination, the executive order sets new rules for commercial aircraft and engine leases. However, the executive order has created considerable confusion and doubts in the aviation sector.
A number of recent aircraft repossession actions have demonstrated that a majority of judges have correctly recognised lessor rights to repossession in the face of apparent lease agreement defaults. However, these decisions have not clearly cited the Cape Town Convention as their basis. The Brazilian judiciary's failure to unify repossession actions against a bankrupt lessee in a single court has meant that some lessors are subject to minority view decisions that can be upheld on appeal.