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Majority of Russian businesses dodge taxes

September 25, 2013, 10:28 UTC+3

Experts propose ways to remedy the situation

1 pages in this article

Russia’s Finance Ministry is planning for the next three years to earn an additional 400 billion rubles to the budget by means of taking out of the shadow part of the grey economy, the Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports.

According to the experts of the publication, the shadow sector of Russia's economy is currently equivalent to about 20% of Russia’s GDP. “The classic criterion of the shadow sector of the economy is tax evasion,” says Nikita Maslennikov, an adviser at the Institute of Contemporary Development. According to him, Russia in terms of tax evasion volume stands between the developed countries with the shadow GDP volume of 10-15%, and “the developing marginal” countries with 30-35% of GDP. And the main problem of the national taxmen is informal employment, he said. “It’s about 18-20 million people. Employers do not insurance premiums pay for them. And the citizens who work in the mode of informal employment, underpay personal income tax,” said Maslennikov.

The tax bodies have claims to large companies - tax dodgers because of their offshore links. But the tax reduction motive is not the main one for them. “It is impossible within our legal framework to carry out complex-structure transactions. Practically not a single major merger or acquisition can be carried out in its pure form. The same as many other similar operations. So, the larger the business, the more transactions with foreign assets. Any disclosure of information in Russia is fraught with a raider attack and nothing more,” complains the adviser of the Institute of Contemporary Development.

Three quarters of Russia’s businesses are in the shadow, experts say.

Valery Mironov, Director of the Development Centre Institute of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, believes: “The most important thing for Russia is the protection of businesses from acquisitions, protection of property owners from someone’s learning their real wealth. Because if such information appears, then the next week all of these companies will be under attack by those who engage in hostile takeovers. All fear this.”

In the view of Mironov, the pressure of the Finance Ministry could bring to the budget about 400 billion rubles, but on one condition. If the problems of the protection of private property are not simultaneously resolved, businesses might just start to leave the country. And the effect would be the opposite.

Valery Mironov recalls that although Russia in the latest ranking of the World Economic Forum has climbed up 3 notches, it nevertheless has some of the world’s worst positions in the ranking’s institutional category. Russia among the countries ranked 133rd in terms of the protection of property rights, 109th - in terms of corruption, 119th - by the degree of independence of the judiciary, 120th - in terms of severity of state regulation, 118th - in terms of the effectiveness of the legal system to resolve disputes, 120th - in terms of the effectiveness of the legal system for disputes with regulators, 122th - in terms of the possibility to rely on the police, and so on.

The current initiative of Russia's Ministry of Finance, aimed at the disclosure of the beneficiaries of large companies, is part of a system programme, adopted within the framework of the Group of Twenty (G20).

“The initiative, which has been supported by all the G20 leaders, is aimed at the creation of a multilateral convention on automatic exchange of tax information. Its goal is the identification of the final beneficiaries of that or other transaction. We were hosting the summit and supported the initiative, so that were have mildly supported these international obligations. The Ministry of Finance is now developing this line. So this work is here for the long haul,” said Maslennikov.

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