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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tax Ministry Wants Right to Interrogate, Seize Documents

The Tax Ministry is pressing the government to give it a range of police powers that only the Interior Ministry enjoys.

Tax Minister Gennady Bukayev told the latest issue of Russian Tax Courier, the ministry's in-house publication, that he wants his ministry to be able to "inventory taxpayers' property, interrogate witnesses [and] seize documents and objects," Vedomosti reported Tuesday.

He also said he wants to extend to five years from three the length of time official inspections can last.

Currently, only the police, armed with a court warrant and accompanied by tax officials, is empowered to interrogate witnesses and seize documents and property in the course of an investigation. But Bukayev said a bill that would grant the ministry the powers it is seeking has already been drafted.

The bill has yet to be submitted to parliament, but it has already encountered staunch opposition from the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, which told Vedomosti that "it would give tax authorities -- indeed, local tax authorities -- unprecedented powers."

Bukayev's comments have also spooked leading members of the business community.

"We haven't read the bill yet, but if the Economic Development and Trade Ministry is concerned, we're concerned," said Andrew Somers, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia.

"It looks like an effort to significantly reduce the role of the courts in this process, which we would hate to see because we've been encouraged by the neutrality of the courts in tax disputes in recent years," Somers said.

Geoffrey Cox, co-founder of the European Business Club, said it would be better if tax officials spent their time "working out how to encourage businesses to pay taxes by making them easier to understand."

Some legal experts suggested the proposal may be just a trial balloon to gauge public opinion.