Session to discuss Belarusian tax policy

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President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to keep tax benefits only for priority industries. The head of state made this statement at a session to discuss the country’s tax policy on 16 February.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Belarus no longer can afford as many tax benefits as it used to. “Earlier we had an opportunity to offer this amount of tax benefits, however the time has changed. We should probably scrap individual tax benefits altogether,” the President believes.

“We should proceed from the fact that all economic operators should be provided with equal terms. An exception can be made only for priority industries that are of great interest to the state, the industries that can make the domestic economy more efficient and generate growth,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

There are nearly 250 tax benefits in Belarus. As a result of these tax benefits, the budget received about a billion dollars less in 2013 alone. The President noted that tax benefits are needed to stimulate priority industries and get the return on spending. “However, we should admit that we offered so many tax benefits that now we can hardly sort things out,” the head of state said.

Speaking about the tax burden, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted: “We need to study this matter very scrupulously. However, we should avoid going into extremes”. Most of the problems come from pension and social insurance payments, the President noted. At the same time he reiterated that Belarus is a socially-oriented country.

During the conference the head of state pointed out a number of considerations, in particular, the state of affairs in Belarus’ tax system. “A lot has been done lately to improve the system. The number of taxes has been reduced, tax administration has been simplified, digital procedures have been introduced to facilitate interaction with tax payers,” noted the President. “It seems the state of affairs has improved. It has been confirmed by the international ranking”.

“On the other hand, if we change something in taxation all the time, we may damage the country’s stability,” the head of state stressed.

“Frankly speaking, should we correct tax rates once all the way in order to allow everyone to calmly work for several years after that?” Aleksandr Lukashenko wondered.

The Belarusian leader also spoke about tax administration during the government conference. “Taxation should be as simple as possible. Everyone should be able to understand it. It should be logical. It is also a psychological matter if you like, not only an economic matter. Sometimes tax legislation requires a small company to employ an excessive number of accountants. It is abnormal,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

Among the issues raised during the session was tax control. The head of state emphasized that a tax inspector is not a consultant who explains things to accountants and helps them, however this is unavoidable. “There is no other way; it always happens that while conducting inspections, tax inspectors have to consult entrepreneurs and give recommendations to accountants. However, this is not the major duty of a tax inspector,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted. “A tax inspector is there to control! In many countries, there is no denying that, a tax administration is the major fiscal agency of the state. Therefore, we should enhance the status and prestige of the tax authority,” the President noted. “One should not forget that there is no state without taxes. However, taxes are not just a fiscal instrument, but also a stimulus for economic growth. Therefore, everything should be approached carefully here,” the President concluded.

Participants of the session pointed out the need to step up dialogue between the government and business.