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LACCA Approved: Juan Manuel Baraona

Tax Firm: Baraona, Fischer & Spiess (Santiago) Santiago, Chile

Juan Manuel Baraona

Partner

jmbaraona@baraona.cl

Juan Manuel Baraona earned his law degree at the University of Chile (1963) and a master of arts degree in law and diplomacy at Tufts University (1972). For more than 20 years he has been professor of economics and tax law, and head of the law and economics department at the University of Chile, where he is also director of the tax master’s programme. Baraona has consistently been placed in the top tier of international rankings such as Chambers and Partners, Who’s Who Legal, Best Lawyers and The Legal 500; he has also been named a “senior statesman” in tax and private wealth. He advises local and international clients on a wide range of tax matters and was formerly a partner in EY’s tax department.

Thought Leaders 2018 - Interview with Juan Manuel Baraona

Why did you decide to enter the legal profession?

It was a sudden decision. I was supposed to study medicine, but six months before completing school, I decided I wanted to follow my father’s path, he was a great lawyer. I have never regretted the decision.

Can you describe your career to date?

It’s been a long way up to where I’m standing now. I admit I have been guided through coincidences in my life, as I never really made a conscious decision to choose tax as a practice area to specialise in. After I came back from my studies in the United States I was looking for a job and I went to an interview at a huge multinational enterprise and was asked what I knew about tax. As my answer was “nothing”, they hired me because they considered me the only candidate who was willing to learn everything and could be honest about not knowing a thing about it. That has set my path and I’m very happy with it.

What has been the most memorable case you have worked on over the course of your career?

The most memorable thing for me wasn’t a case, it was my participation on the 1990s administration of Patricio Aylwin – the first president after Chile returned to democratic rule - when I was part of the team in charge of developing the tax reform. After that, I continued to work as part of other governments as a tax adviser for further changes in tax laws.

How have the reforms enacted by outgoing President Michelle Bachelet affected the corporate tax sector in Chile?

Unfortunately, small and medium-sized entrepreneurs are those most affected by the uncertainty and complex tax system of Michelle Bachelet’s tax reform. As we are still waiting to see what impact these reforms will have on the country’s economy and corporate landscape, we are still unsure about what the outcome will be and how it will be managed.

What are the biggest challenges currently facing your clients in terms of tax and what is your advice to them?

Uncertainty is the biggest challenge facing our clients, as we know the current system will be reformed – it certainly needs to be changed – but we still do not know when. As the reforms in all matters are urgent, a lot of investments and funds are needed, so the changes can take a while, which can add to the level of uncertainty.

How do you see your practice area developing over the next few years?

We have achieved a lot and have been able to build a great firm, with a sound team of partners and associates. We have grown consistently in terms of volume and reach, increasing our practice areas and providing our clients a complete advisory over their needs. We expect to continue in the same path.

You have achieved so much in your career. Where do you feel you could go next?

I would simply love to continue working in the same way I have all these years. I want to continue giving my best to our clients, partners, associates, students at the law school where I teach and, of course, the most important, to my family.

What advice would you give younger practitioners who one day hope to be in your position?

The advice I would give younger practitioners entering the legal profession is just to work hard and be intelligently patient; and be ambitious by delivering top-quality work, because that will be the key to success. Everything comes with time, effort, dedication and determination.

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