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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Inspectors Swap Places to Improve Work

VedomostiThe Federal Tax Service, part of the Finance Ministry, may be shuffling its staff to increase their effectiveness.
The country's chief tax inspectors began playing musical chairs this month. Heads of four multiregional inspectorates -- the Federal Tax Service units in charge of overseeing revenues from the country's largest taxpayers in the oil, gas, alcohol and tobacco industries, as well as the transportation sector -- switched positions with each other on Feb. 1, federal tax authorities said Wednesday.

Federal Tax Service spokeswoman Yelena Tolgskaya on Thursday declined to clarify the reason for the changes, but staffing experts and anti-corruption activists hailed the rotations as a positive move that should help clean up the service and boost its expertise.

Alla Yashina, former chief of the multiregional inspectorate for transportation sector tax revenues, is now in charge of oil. Sergei Kiroshenko, who oversaw gas, is the new transport taxes inspector. Alexandra Kaplunova is acting chief of gas sector taxes. The former oil company inspectorate, Vladimir Vasilyev, is in charge of alcohol and tobacco producers, the Federal Tax Service said.

In the private sector, large corporations sometimes use staff rotations to allow employees to learn new skills, or to decrease fraud, said Tatyana Chernozub, partner at Flex Search, a Moscow-based staffing firm.

"Employees are moved across departments when they have an opportunity to profit from forming alliances" with those they are hired to control, she said. For example, security personnel working for a large retailer might be rotated from one department to another, Chernozub said.

"It is not a bad idea" to make similar changes in the tax service, said Yelena Panfilova, president of Transparency International Russia.

Horizontal staff rotations are used in other countries to discourage government officials from forming cozy relationships with the businesses they are meant to oversee, Panfilova said.

"Any attempts to change something are welcome," she said.

Entrepreneurs have voiced fears of arbitrary justice by the tax officials, saying that there was no clear rationale for slapping some companies with back tax claims but pardoning others.

Over the course of last year, oil majors TNK-BP and Sibneft, mobile phone operators VimpelCom and MegaFon, shipping giant Volgotanker, cigarette maker Japan Tobacco International and other major enterprises were saddled with millions of dollars in back taxes.

Many of these tax bills were subsequently reduced or settled in court, but the business community remained jittery.

The Federal Tax Service collected 2.6684 trillion rubles ($94.96 billion) last year, 710.1 billion ($25.27 billion) more than in 2004, the service said.