Russia gets tough with tax dodgers
Tuesday 01 April 1997
Today is the deadline for Russians to hand in their personal income tax returns. For the nation's beleaguered treasurers it is a decisive moment, an opportunity to discover if the government has made any progress with a massive campaign to bring an end to an epidemic of tax-dodging.
The problem is one of the country's gravest economic maladies, spoiling efforts to switch to free market economics, and souring its relationship with its lenders at the International Monetary Fund. Tax experts estimate that only about half the country's personal earnings yield income tax, adding to a revenue collection crisis that has reduced budget forecasts to gibberish. The rest of the cash swirls around illegally in the large black economy.
This year, the government has gone to unprecedented lengths, bombarding the 148 million population with intimidating television advertisements. One shows a man caught in the cross-hairs of a telescopic sight. "The choice is yours," growls the announcer.
Alarming footage has been screened showing the tax police's 500-strong Swat team in action. Their equipment includes grenades, tear gas, AK47 assault rifles; mountaineers and snipers are among their ranks. True, they are normally used to pursue mafia-run businesses and other non-paying companies, rather than individuals. But that is beside the point. The cash-starved authorities are quite happy to scare the public into coming clean.
Tax gathering in Russia is no easy task. Last year - when Russia managed to raise only about two-thirds of taxes - 26 tax officials were killed and 74 wounded in the line of duty. Several dozen have had their homes burned down, and at least one was kidnapped.
The violence is a result of a running war between the tax authorities and non-paying corporations. (These owe billions: half of all Russia's overdue tax is owed by only 73 enterprises.) But it deepens the rift in a country where the federal authorities are seen as inept and corrupt.
Distrust of officialdom is a central part of the problem. In a recent survey by the Russian Marketing Research Company, 61 per cent agreed that tax evasion is not a crime. "One of the greatest sources of this in was the amount of money that the government spent on the military in Chechnya," said Peter Reinhardt, personal tax manager with Ernst & Young in Moscow.
Broadly, the top rate of income tax is 35 per cent, which kicks in for those earning above $8,500 (pounds 5,312) a year. Average wages are closer to $1,800, which is taxed at 12 per cent. VAT is at 20 per cent.
Those who lie on their tax returns, or fail to submit them, face penalties ranging from a fine which equals their tax debt, plus interest, or - for repeat offenders - a jail sentence of up to three years.
The Swat teams do not help. "They tend to come through the front door and put a revolver up the receptionist's left nostril, no matter what kind of business they are dealing with," said one Western analyst. "It's not very nice."
- 2 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 3 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Caitlyn Jenner car crash: Driver who died in collision sued by surviving passengers for $18.5m
Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Turkey duped the US, and Isis reaps rewards
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says jobless migrants should be banned from entering the UK
£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...
£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...
£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...