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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016


Mind the Media

In response to "Tax Reform Before Tax Exemptions," Oct. 17:


I cannot disagree strongly enough with your editorial against continuing VAT and other tax exemptions to the Russian media. Although you rightly note that tax exemptions have been badly abused in the past here, it is ludicrous of you to argue that Russian newspapers f which are presently barely able to survive and have not noticeably developed over the last seven years f can flourish under even more hostile conditions.

Your editorial also naively states that Western countries do not use tax policies to encourage socially useful economic activity. This is simply absurd. The United States, for instance, offers tax write-offs for costs related to domestic oil and gas exploration. Closer to the subject of newspapers, Norway exempts newsprint and capital-equipment costs for publishing companies from value-added tax. It would be hard to find a country that does not engage in such practices.

In your article covering this story, an expert from the Moscow Media Law and Policy Institute rightly says that the present media law is highly flawed, but certainly better than nothing. Anyone who supports freedom of the press in Russia should urge the extension of existing benefits in order to at least maintain the status quo. Later, we can and must address the inadequacies of this law.

If The Moscow Times seeks to take a principled stand on the media in Russia, here is one for you: Let's end national and local subsidies to the media of all sorts and make it illegal for state institutions and officials to found, work for or control any media property. This position will bring millions of taxpayer rubles back into the budget and allow the government the flexibility to create truly positive tax incentives that can rebuild local advertising markets in the regions and direct advertising dollars to nonstate, locally owned newspapers. Now that would be progressive.

Robert Coalson

National Press Institute, St.Petersburg