Income Tax 2023: see how the lion was ‘born’ – 03/16/2023 – Market

Income Tax 2023: see how the lion was ‘born’ – 03/16/2023 – Market


The culprit for the Income Tax is not the government, but a lion, an implacable and fair animal, which attacks only those who challenge it.

The idea may sound exaggerated today, but it is the concept behind one of the most successful campaigns in Brazilian advertising, which enshrined the lion as a symbol of the Federal Revenue Service and made it even become a dictionary entry.

It was 1979 and the government of General João Figueiredo, during the military dictatorship, needed to send a message: the tax authorities were prepared to prosecute Income Tax evaders. The campaign also had the mission of explaining how to fill out a long form that arrived by post.

What had everything to be boring became art in the hands of Neil Ferreira and José Zaragoza, from the agency DPZ, who came up with the concept of the lion. Both, who died in 2017, were behind other memorable campaigns, such as Baixinho da Kaiser and “Vandalismo” (known as “A morte do orelhão”).

“The briefing, in short, was ‘More or less, the Income Tax will find you, because it was already equipped for that’ (it was, it was)”, said Ferreira in the book “Zaragoza e amigos –Ideias premiadas” (2014). “So we created a ‘culprit’ to attribute the bite you were given. From the word ‘bite’, the search for ‘biter’ came up and we arrived at the Lion.”

The duo teamed up with director Andés Bukowinski, who knew a lion breeder. They recorded a video that pleased the bureaucrats, but approved with reservations.

According to Eliana Ferreira, Neil’s widow, the pilot was recorded with a lioness (therefore, without a mane). The failure was noted by Delfim Netto, a strong man on the economic team during most of the military regime.

Once the error was corrected, the lion began to visit Brazilians’ homes in commercials on TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. “The lion is tame, but he is not a fool”, said one of the slogans of the campaign that began in 1980 and lasted ten years.

In the words of Neil Ferreira, the lion “is still today, more than 30 years later, living on free publicity in the headlines of newspapers”.

The creators explored the idea that the Income Tax can be tamed, like a kitten, but that the Revenue could turn into a beast if necessary. “Don’t let the lion get to you.”

The campaign was awarded at Fiap (Iberoamerican Advertising Festival), but what made Neil Ferreira most proud was another recognition. The symbol caught on so much that, in the Houaiss and Aurélio dictionaries, the entry “lion” now has “income tax collection agency” among its meanings.

Maria Matuck, professor at ESPM (Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing), says that the lion made a mark because it had heavy investment for a decade and because it brings a powerful analogy. “The campaign took an element from another scenario, a beautiful animal, to talk about something boring, which is paying taxes.”

For Matuck, the campaign would have problems if launched today. Recordings involving lions in captivity, frightened by the whip, would no longer be so well received given the advance in the debate on animal rights.

Clotilde Perez, professor of advertising and semiotics at USP (University of São Paulo), says that the campaign subliminally carried part of the spirit of the military government.

“The campaign’s intention was to warn that the lion would get you, intimidation. At the time, it was possible, today it would be very heavy. It wasn’t a State ready to protect you, it was a threatening State”, says Perez.


Today, 44 years after the campaign, the lion’s “bite” remains firm, especially for those who miss the deadline to deliver the income tax return or fall into the fine mesh. However, a lot has changed so far.

This year, the tax authorities expanded the pre-filled declaration, which already comes with previous data sent to the Federal Revenue Service by companies and service providers. In addition, those who opt for the model will have priority to receive the refund.

The novelty is available for those who have a silver or gold account. In addition, there is the possibility of filling out the IR on various platforms: computer, cell phone or tablet and online, at the e-CAC (Virtual Service Center of the Federal Revenue Service).

The payment of restitution was also something that changed a lot over the years. It is deposited, in general, in the bank account informed by the taxpayer when sending the statement. Since 2022, when the centenary of the Income Tax was celebrated, there has been a new change: the refund payment can be made through Pix.


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