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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

City’s Paid Parking Under Fire

A city employee collecting parking fees on Tverskaya Ulitsa. A Supreme Court decision has implied that the practice is illegal.

The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of a St. Petersburg city court, which ruled that the collection of parking fees — both at private and municipal lots — is illegal. Because the decision was based on federal tax legislation, it could set an important precedent for similar legal action in Moscow.

The court’s decision was based on a 1998 federal tax law stipulating that 16 local taxes — including parking fees — must automatically be eliminated upon the introduction of a sales tax in any given city. And although Moscow introduced its 4 percent sales tax more than a year ago, drivers wishing to park their cars along busy streets continue to be harassed by attendants demanding fees.

"Evidently, this fee is illegal," said Andrei Pryanishnikov, a Tax Ministry spokesman.

But a spokeswoman for the city’s tax inspectorate argued that the parking fee is not a tax, which would be subject to elimination under the sales tax law, but is viewed as a "service the city offers to those who want to rent a parking place."

No city transport officials could be reached for comment.

Earlier this month, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov gave drivers a glimmer of hope that they would soon be rid of the pesky parking attendants when he told a meeting of the city government that the fees have been a failure and have done little to bolster the city budget. But City Hall was quick to clarify that Luzhkov had no intention of abolishing parking fees and was referring to general measures intended to decongest traffic in central Moscow.

Andrei, a parking fee collector on Tverskaya Ulitsa, said that paid parking is a guarantee of safety and order downtown.

"Look at this car," he said, pointing to a dark blue Opel he was leaning against. "The stereo is there. The owner leaves everything he wants inside, knowing that nothing will happen while he’s gone."

Alexander, who collects parking fees by the Polytechnical Museum on Novaya Ploshchad, said that he helps police "keep order."

"I carefully watch every car that comes to park, so if something looks suspicious I always notice and inform the policeman," he said.

But Maria Minkova, 29, who often argues with fee collectors when parking her Zhiguli, would be happy to see them go.

"No one can compete with their talent for extorting extra money from drivers and taking revenge on those who refuse to pay," she said. "They can scratch the doors, break the side mirror or puncture a tire."