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Russia and Baltic States
- 203 Russia mobilizes army to fight fires august 2010
- 202 The 2nd Wave Is Coming in Russia
- 201 Russia 2008 Travel Summary & Local laws and customs
- 200 Russia New legislation for real estate & tax rules may 2007
- 199 Russian ex-president Yeltsin dies
- 198 Journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been posthumously awarded
- 197 We must ask ourselves: Do we live in a society where corruption is a moral perversity to the normal flow of things? 28/9 2006
- 196 Transparency International listed Russia as one of the nations where perceived corruption had increased from the previous years survey, sep 2006
- 195 The Kremlin is warning Western governments july 2006
- 194 EU,US, Baltic States These countries have become the enemies in the new "chilly war" May 06
- 193 In fact, Russia is not so unique in having a problem with corruption -- indeed, most countries of the world operate in similar conditions 17 mai 06
- 192 Heads roll in anti-corruption drive 15 May 2006
- 191 Strong rebuke for the Kremlin - mai 2005
- 190 The energy ministers of the European Union (EU) have called on Russia to speed up the ratification of the Energy Charter, but Russia is not in a hurry to comply. April 06
- 189 Its a great story, but its an ugly one, too. Russia feb 2006
- 188 "The fish rots from the head." Indeed! jan 2006
- 187 Some estimates indicate that corruption in universities is rising by 7-10 percent annually, jan 2006
- 186 Russia Organized crime still remains a major challenge dec 2005
- 185 Russia’s Forestry Industry is perceived as one of the most corrupt in the world Nov 2005
- 184 Russia has reverted to the Wild East. But these days the crooks are the government. May 2005
- 183 U.N. Officials Cited in Oil - For - Food Case ´´take care´´ of ´´U.N. Official No. 1.´´ april 2005
- 182 UNDERSTANDING PALESTINIAN POLITICS , nov 2004
- 181 UNDERSTANDING TERROR NETWORKS, november 2004
- 180 PUBLIC THEOLOGY AND DEMOCRACYS FUTURE
- 179 Jan 20, 2004, When a leader who is trusted goes into battle, he must not be left alone
- 178 There may be an element of poetic justice in Vladimir Gusinsky
- 177 RUSSIA Groups Urge Putin on Privatization
- 176 Putin wanted to discuss methods of battling corruption
- 175 Corruption Costs Russia USD 30 Billion a Year
- 174 More Russians Back in Davos Feb 2003
- 173 Police officers were secretly members of criminal groups
- 172 THE TURKISH FACTOR IN THE GEOPOLITICS OF THE POST-SOVIET SPACE
- 171 EU candidates face corruption issues Nov 2002
- 170 Assassination of Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov,
- 169 The Resurgence of Lies and Disinformation
- 168 Oil and trade play part in U.N. debate on Iraq
- 167 Center-Right Wins Latvian Poll
- 166 Radio Liberty Stripped Of Status
- 165 Most visits to Lithuania are trouble-free
- 164 The Soviet secret police -- VChK, GPU, NKVD, KGB Top Secret Files Tell Story of Expulsion
- 163 The Men Who Tried to Topple Mikhail Gorbachev
- 162 No Fireworks for 10th Anniversary After 10 Year No 7
- 161 Fall of the Soviet Union Symbolized Death of an Idea 10 Year after No 6
- 160 Defenders Recount Their Moment of Glory 10 Year after no 5
- 159 Communist Party Comes Full Circle 10 Year after No 4
- 158 What Putin Did During The Coup
- 157 Economic Crash No One Saw Coming 10 year after no 2
- 156 The Coup 1991 - 2001 Ten Years after no 1
- 155 OPEC, Russia and Iraq
- 154 Iran has said it wants the sea split equally between the five while Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan
- 153 the worlds third-largest nuclear arsenal belonged to little Ukraine
- 152 The shortcomings of Russias bureaucracy are legion, its incompetence is legendary
- 151 ............called for Chubais to quit. sep 2002
- 150 $3Bln Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Gets Under Way
- 149 LUKoil in Talks With Kidnappers
- 148 Berezovsky & "The Godfather" and "Citizen Kane."
- 147 Not All Listen to Putins Orders
- 146 In Russia, majority shareholders rights do not exist
- 145 United States has blacklisted three Russian defense contractors it says are "transferring lethal military equipment" to countries supporting terrorism
- 144 Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963..........the Pacific port of Vladivostok
- 143 The Dignity of Difference: Avoiding the Clash of Civilizations
- 142 Russian companies paid a total of 33.5 billion dollars in bribes
- 141 Duma member Vladimir Golovlyov shot dead in contract killing aug 2002
- 140 Putin issues Ethics Code for civil servants aug 2002
- 139 Latvia Premier signs decree on party financial declarations
- 138 Whatever Happened To Those Vouchers? Mr Putin?
- 137 Russia with Iran, and in particular its sale of nuclear technology
- 136 First Deputy Smolensk Governor Vladimir Prokhorov was shot and killed
- 135 Smuggling, da. Extortion, da. Murder, da.
- 134 Kremlin Kills Plan To Retake Resources
- 133 U.S. to Russia: Clean corruption up
- 132 Latvia Government decides on third competition to find anti-corruption chief
- 131 We do not give out any information!
- 130 "The U.S. Media -- Problems of Free Speech."
- 129 Defenders of the oligarch system in Russia liken the development to that of the robber barons in the United States and elsewhere
- 128 There Is a New Billionaire in Town
- 127 FREE PRESS in RUSSIA 2002, sorry its not
- 126 Russia Tracking down IMF billions Crime and Corruption Watch 27 Jun 2002
- 125 Russians pay for state corruption 07.2002
- 124 BUSHS SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND june 2002
- 123 A bribery arrest in Krasnoyarsk
- 122 Georg P Shultz THE WORK OF DIPLOMACY Before & after the 11 sep 2001
- 121 THE FUTILE SEARCH FOR "ROOT CAUSES" OF TERRORISM
- 120 CIA Will Continue Search for New Russian Technologies
- 119 Swiss to repay Russia over bail for corrupt ex-Kremlin adviser Borodin
- 118 Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus urged lawmakers to strengthen the fight against corruption
- 117 At present legal base for the transport and freight forwarding activities in the Russian Federation practically doesnt exist
- 116 Either the United States would cease to be a democracy or the Soviet Union would cease to be a Leninist dictatorship
- 115 Back to the USSR
- 114 From Russia With Love
- 113 "check that the paperwork was done correctly, but look right past the deeply corrupt heart of the matter
- 112 Stepashin Turns Up Heat on Ministers
- 111 After he refused to pay a police major a $20,000 bribe
- 110 With auditing today 10 years after the term arrived on the Russian market it turns out that everyone understands it differently
- 109 Putin said 7,000 killers had escaped punishment last year and that hundreds of thousands of other criminals
- 108 Majority of Russians believe Russia is among 10 most corrupt countries 02.02
- 107 He seems to have powerful patrons, and he is very smart The Corruption is still going on. Febr 02
- 106 Kremlin bailiffs pull the plugs on last independent television network jan 2002
- 105 GlavUpDK pays no taxes on the land it uses.
- 104 Indeed, last year Mr. Bush cited the 30 percent Russian.... January 25, 2002
- 103 Pugachyov is not some Putin protege plucked from obscurity TV 6 NTV jan 2002
- 102 Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be ushering in a new era
- 101 Two held in first criminal probe into Gazprom
- 100 During its eight years of operation, Estline never posted a profit 2002.01
- 99 Corruption remains major problem in Latvia "I dont see any light at the end of the tunnel", 2002
- 98 Putin warns audit chambers against politicisation . jan 02
- 97 Bosse Ringholm - Riksgälden och Flygförsäkringsmarknaden!
- 96 Work to curb economic crime, corruption not good enough - Russian minister 25 dec 2001
- 95 Putin Answers Russians´ Questions NYT 24 dec 2001
- 94 Russia there is only one easy and relatively inexpensive way to ship goods -- by rail
- 93 Chubais Doesnt Mind the Heat Over UES
- 92 And Gazprom will soon find out if it is next
- 91 The Yeltsin-era insiders career is over and a wider war on corruption is under way
- 90 Visa hassles for many tourists are to be reduced from feb 02
- 89 Ombudsman concerned with corruption at Russian border checkpoint
- 88 Probes Giving Ministers Jitters
- 87 Moscow Gets New Tool for Money Monitoring
- 86 RUSSIA: The government-criminal alliance
- 85 RUSSIA: Rankings Rain on Economic Parade
- 81 Foreign Policy Research Institute WATCH ON THE WEST
- 80 Are Bribes a Great Deal? Russia 2001?
- 79 The attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., 11 September 2001
- 78 U.S. Campaign Presents Benefits for Russia
- 77 Foreign Workers Face New Red Tape
- 76 The attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., 11 September 2001
- 75 Yakovlev Decree Sets Sights on Corruption
- 74 New Details in RusAl Murder Suit
- 73 Stealing the State, and Everything Else A Survey of Corruption in the Postcommunist World
- 72 St. Pete Should Brace for Capital Invasion
- 71 Why Does Russia Need Vertical Integration?
- 70 After a false start, Russia may at last be breaking free of the shackles of
- 69 "There is no place for a radio like Ekho Moskvy here anymore."
- 68 RUSSIA: Ethos of corruption in nuclear establishment
- 67 Baltic States Membership in NATO Unlikely
- 66 RUSSIA: Audit blasts $880 million Moscow charity scheme
- 65 RUSSIA: $10 billion per year foreign direct investment lost due to non-transparency says PwC
- 64 RUSSIA: Prosecutor vows to pursue extradition of media mogul
- 63 Corruption in Russian newspapers exposed
- 62 Putin tightens curbs on press with bank raid
- 61 Wife Says Russians Have Rediscovered Their Pride
- 60 Putin Moving to Control Russia on All Political Levels
- 59 Oligarch hits out at his Kremlin monster
- 58 Russian Journalists Targeted in Attacks Corruption Investigators Face Slashed
- 57 Putin Moving to Control Russia on All Political Levels
- 56 Oligarch hits out at his Kremlin monster
- 55 RUSSIA: MEDIA EXECUTIVE ORDERED ARRESTED, VOWS TO STAY OUT OF COUNTRY
- 54 WESTERN AID TO RUSSIA ``LACKING OVERALL STRATEGY``
- 53 USA: GAO AUDIT REPORT FINDS AID TO RUSSIA FAILED
- 52 GAO AUDITORS SAY AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT LAX IN HANDLING RUSSIAN FOOD AID
- 51 BANKS WORK WITH TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL TO ESTABLISH ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING PRINCIPLES
- 50 The High Price of Russias Military Improvement Plan
- 49 In Russia, Rich Get Poorer, Poor Get Poorer
- 48 Russia Makes me Nervous-Latvias Vike-Freiberga
- 47 RUSSIA: GIANT MEDIA FIRM CHARGED WITH FRAUD OVER ASSETS TRANSFERRED OFFSHORE
- 46 RUSSIA: ELECTRONIC ANTI-CORRUPTION PROPOSED USING THE INTERNET
- 45 Increasing the Risk of Investing in Russian Companies
- 44 Russian auditor confirms graft in Govt.
- 43 Swiss firms mafia links
- 42 Russia: Putin’s Coming Concession to the Oligarchs
- 41 Gridlock: All Trains Lead to Moscow
- 40 BEREZOVSKII SAYS KREMLIN THREATENS HIM OVER ORT SHARES
- 39 Russia continues to be an intensely dangerous place to work
- 38 The Long Arm of Organized Crime Reaches Deeply Into St. Petersburg's
- 37 RUSSIA
FEDERAL PROSECUTOR SEEKS TO OVERTURN PRIVATIZATION DEAL…
- 36 Russia Makes me Nervous
- 35 Putin Begins Crackdown on Russia's Oligarchs
- 35 Russia Formulates a Hybrid Economy
- 35 Regional Bosses Give Initial O.K. To Putin Move
- 34 Latvia Worried About Delay in NATO Baltic Expansion after Yugoslav War
- 34 Moscow Threatens "Hostile" Western Media
- 33 Russia’s Dwindling Population Ensures Rigid Foreign Policy
- 32 Paper Mocking Yakovlev Is Seized
- 31 Russians Plan To Jack Energy Prices
- 30 Moscow Budget
- 29 Baghdad, Belgrade and Moscow Collaborate Against Washington
- 28 Actualizing
the Alliance: Russia and China Move Toward a Pipeline
- 27 Russia Helping Iraq Upgrade Air Defenses
- 5 The Consequences of Russias Looming Food Shortage
- 4 Putin’s Friendly Face Will Not Last
- 3 Reforms in Post-Soviet Russia Failed. Nov 1999
- 2 THE CRISIS IN RUSSIA (Published in USA Sep 1998)
- 1 To bee a good Citizen of Sweden you must remember this?
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Russia New legislation for real estate & tax rules
Renewed interest in real estate investment in Russia and new legislation governing town planning is seeing the market – and the country’s dilapidated residential housing – receive a facelift.
By Andrei Soukhomlinov
It is not news that Russia is still topping the polls as the most attractive destination for real estate investment funds in Europe. Real estate investment in Russia increased by more than 1,000 per cent last year, according to real estate management company Jones Lang LaSalle.
All sectors are doing very well, particularly warehousing and retail. Cushman & Wakefield reported in November 2006 that a record 13.8 million square metres of new shopping centre schemes are due to open across Europe this year and that Russia is top of the table for shopping centre developments.
Infrastructure is also benefiting from investor interest, but bearing in mind the poor quality of Russian infrastructure, there are still plenty of opportunities for investors prepared to take a long view and carry the risk, as those involved in the new highway planned between Moscow and St Petersburg using a PPP structure are doing.
What is new is that changes in Russian law aim to stimulate foreign investment in the most difficult section for foreign investors, and the most opaque – residential property.
The new federal law on the amendment of the Russian Town Planning Code of the Russian Federation of 18 December 2006 (Law 232) ushers in a raft of changes in the biggest recent shake-up of residential property law.
Unlike common law legal systems, in Russia there is only residential and non-residential property. Therefore warehouses, retail, infrastructure and other uses of property fall under the non-residential laws and regulations, which differ from those under the residential real estate system.
There is also little privately owned land in Russia. The state or municipal bodies (in many instances it is not clear which) own almost all the land in Russia. Traditionally state or municipal authorities do not register their title to land even when it is clear which state authority is entitled to the land. Although the 1998 registration law stated that all transactions involving titles of land and property have to be registered, pending registration of title local authorities have been able to dispose of land via granting leaseholds.
Furthermore, land and buildings located on such land are treated separately and the ownership of the land usually follows the ownership of the associated buildings on it.
The need for legislative change to fuel investment in residential property had become urgent by last year for a very practical reason. A construction boom in the 1960s in Russia created many swathes of five-storey housing estates that have not stood the test of time. They urgently need to be replaced with housing befitting the 21st century. There is also a great need for investment in older, dilapidated residential housing, which is often located in prime city sites. Making residential housing more attractive for investors is the reason for these new laws.
The new regime introduces a new concept of comprehensive development of existing residential areas. This type of development may include renovation of existing houses and, most significantly, new construction. This is exactly what is required for investors.
In particular, the new law provides that districts may now be developed pursuant to a contract concluded between the investor and the local authorities following an open, transparent tender. The essential terms and conditions of such contracts are set out in the Town Planning Code.
The contracts will require the investor to prepare at its own expense a draft plan demarcation of the territory and its zoning; to transfer into state or municipal ownership residential premises for the relocation of residents of existing houses rented from the authorities and to buy out the existing owners of privatised flats and apartments.
Investors interested in participating in such projects still need to be willing to bear significant costs and expenses, some of which should not necessarily be borne by a private investor.
This should not put investors off, though. The local authorities’ obligation to grant to an investor lease rights over publicly owned land, within the territory to be developed and without a tender, may give developers some comfort. This means that only one tender will be held. The winner will be given the right to enter into a contract for the comprehensive development of a territory, which may in fact consist of several land parcels. Previously separate development of these parcels would involve separate tenders.
Tackling illegal development
Another change will be a crackdown on corruption. Quite often developers have obtained the rights to develop residential sites without a transparent and legally clear tender and the sector had a reputation for being too opaque.
Governmental agency the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) is already showing it intends to fight corruption in this sector; there are already reports in the Russian press that it has issued a warning notice to a major local Moscow developer who is alleged to have obtained the right to develop a prime residential site in central Moscow without a transparent tender process.
The construction permit process has been improved. A single state assessment of construction and design documentation will replace a bewildering array of separate expert assessments, including those previously carried out individually by public health, fire, environmental, historical monument conservation and other authorities.
Local authorities frequently lack sufficient resources and staff to cope with the increased volume of documentation submitted for review, but unlike the previous regime the granting of a construction permit should certainly take less than a year.
The demand for residential property has been given a significant boost. The Mortgage Law 1998 is amended so that mortgages of land plots to which state freehold ownership is not determined and registered in the Consolidated State Register of Rights can be legally valid in the absence of such registration.
The idea that you can have a mortgage on land that does not have a defined freeholder is not one that Western investors initially find comfortable. However, if you accept that the freehold is owned simply by a public body then it is easier to understand.
The conditions under which the mortgage can be effected include the property being designated for housing construction or initial preparatory works for subsequent complex housing development or if the property is to be used as collateral to secure bank loan financing. This change will help raise financing for local as well as foreign investment in foreign housing development projects. Furthermore, if after three years no building or construction work has been commissioned, the landlord, the publicly owned body, can terminate the land lease.
Four months have passed since the new laws were passed. However, developers are already proving happier to consider early stage development of residential property as a result of these changes. While good laws can be ruined at the implementation stage, currently it seems that these legal developments can only support and sustain the prominence of Russia as the most attractive European country for real estate investors.
•Andrei Soukhomlinov is co-head of the Russian real estate group at Salans
Russias tax system is undergoing a raft of changes designed at improving both its procedures and fairness, but there is still more to be done.
By Oleg Konnov
The Russian Ministry of Finance has recently declared that the tax reform launched in 1998 is almost complete. The Tax Code of the Russian Federation, based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) principles, sets out clear rules for taxation and defines the legal framework of the Russian tax system, including the rights and responsibilities of taxpayers, the powers and obligations of tax authorities, tax registration and filing procedures and tax audit and appeals procedures.
Reducing the tax burden on individuals and corporations has been the cornerstone of the first phase of the reform and this task has been accomplished successfully. An exhaustive list of taxes has been established by the tax code, reducing the total number of taxes from more than 60 to 15.
Regional and local authorities have been prohibited from introducing taxes not listed in the tax code or in violation of the general principles set out in the code. Most onerous taxes, such as turnover taxes, have been abolished and tax rates have been lowered substantially.
Today the tax rates in Russia are among the lowest in Europe. For instance, the majority of Russians encounter a flat tax rate of 13 per cent. The lowest rate of social charges, which are assessed at a regressive scale, is only 2 per cent. Inheritance taxes have been completely abolished. Property tax rates are negligible compared with other countries.
These legislative efforts have been backed up by the courts. In particular the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has issued several rulings declaring various pieces of tax legislation, such as excessive tax penalties, to be in conflict with the tax code.
Notwithstanding this amazing progress achieved within a relatively short period of time, most investors do, however, continue to cite taxes as a major constraining factor to their operations in Russia. Tax law is no longer the problem - the issue is tax administration.
A fundamental distortion between the role of the tax authorities and the mentality of the tax inspectors lies at the heart of this existing problem. In practice the main goal of the tax authorities remains the replenishment of the state treasury. As such, the more money collected by taxmen, the higher their performance is marked.
Each year the government approves tax collection plans. Local tax authorities are instructed to procure the receipt of respective tax amounts, rather than to treat the taxpayers individually and lawfully. Any tax audit pursues the major objective of securing a maximum payment through the assessment of taxes, penalties and interest.
VAT attracts the most acute form of abuse by taxmen. Tax authorities make a point of refusing a tax refund or offset on any artificial grounds. Although the targeted group was initially limited to exporters and other taxpayers in a refund position, the tax authorities have broadened the attack. In the view of taxmen, the input VAT amount should not exceed 70 per cent of the output VAT amount.
Tax inspectorates have been accused of extending invitations to managers of businesses declaring excessive - as seen by taxmen - input VAT. During such meetings, they are said to push for a reduction in input VAT amounts under the threat of audits, freezing of accounts and other chastisements. It has also become virtually impossible to obtain a VAT refund without going to court. Even lengthy court proceedings do not guarantee the reimbursement of VAT, as tax authorities drag their feet over complying with court orders, using any bureaucratic loopholes available.
Administration of VAT has become such a headache for taxpayers that the government has seriously considered substituting sales tax for VAT. Indeed, all shortcomings arising out of the difficulty to collect sales tax are considered to be a lesser evil than the administration of VAT.
Taxpayers vulnerability is aggravated further by the irresponsibility of tax officials. Despite the fact that the legislation in force provides for administrative and even criminal responsibility to be placed on tax officials that fail to perform their duties, only a single instance is known where taxmen were held responsible for infringement of taxpayers rights and knowingly issuing unlawful orders.
Although procedural legislation enables taxpayers to pass on their legal costs in successful cases, this rule does not work out in practice. In most cases courts award only nominal amounts to taxpayers. Companies are forced to allocate a budget for non-reimbursable tax consultancy fees and legal costs.
Even where consistent case law exists, a tax authority is required by the government to exhaust all procedural steps to challenge a court order in favour of a taxpayer. Many headlines were captured by criminal proceedings initiated against two tax inspectorate lawyers who failed to file appeals in cases that were certain to fail. This approach has led to an excessive number of cases before the courts. For instance, in 2006 Russias courts reviewed 654,920 administrative (mostly tax) cases.
Although tax experts and businessmen have been calling for tax reform for years, little progress was made until President Putin identified improvement of tax administration as one of the priorities of the state policy in the Presidents Address 2005. This has urged tax practitioners and governmental officials to combine their efforts in developing the reform strategy.
Time allocated for the conduct of audits has been substantially limited. The tax code also limited documents that the tax authorities may request from taxpayers in connection with a chamber audit. Tax authorities have become bound by the position of the Ministry of Finance.
At the same time the Russian Ministry of Finance has adopted an internal document aimed at determining priorities of the tax service. The efficiency of a local tax inspectorate will now be determined pursuant to eight weighted criteria. Even though tax collection is among them, this should be balanced by other criteria, such as percentage of cases won by the tax inspectorate (based upon both number of cases and their total value), the percentage of cases settled out of court and percentage of taxpayers filing tax returns in electronic form. Thus the Ministry of Finance suggests that the performance of the tax authorities should not be assessed solely or predominantly on the basis of tax collections.
Russian courts have also handed down several rulings aimed at improving tax administration. An information letter issued by the Presidium of the Russian Supreme Commercial (Arbitrazh) Court on 13 March 2007 related to the payment of the state duty. Contrary to the previous practice, when challenging court orders in cases won by taxpayers, tax authorities have now become liable for payment of the state duty.
Such expenses must be reimbursed by the respective tax inspectorate and not by the treasury. In the view of the highest judicial authority, such a measure is expected to result in less pressure on the courts, since the tax authorities would think twice before filing the appeal.
In order to attract investment, Russia needs, among other things, to create a tax system that is transparent, fair and easily administered. With the enactment of the tax code, Russia has made a significant step forward, but in order to achieve this goal it needs to continue to modernise and reform its tax administration system.
Oleg Konnov is a partner in Moscow at Herbert Smith
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