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President Offers Bill on Amnesty for Economic Crimes
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 Feb.'13 / 14:46

President Saakashvili has submitted to Parliament for consideration a package of bills envisaging writing off unpaid taxes, legalization of previously undeclared income, amnesty for over two dozen of economic crimes and decriminalization of some economic offenses.

The bill envisages writing off of all unpaid taxes accumulated before January, 2013; if approved the bill will ban the authorities to probe into amnestied tax evasion cases.

Finance Minister Nodar Khaduri said that he was against of blanket tax amnesty and instead preferred case-by-case approach. He said that the tax dispute council at the Ministry of Finance was already “working actively” in this regard, adjudicating tax complaints.

“When we talks about financial amnesty, we should analyze why these debts emerged and we should take case-by-case approach… When a company receives GEL 300 million from the state budget, but pays nothing [in taxes] to the state budget, excuse me but I cannot support amnesty for such companies,” Khaduri told Channel 9 TV on February 6. He also alleged that with this bill the President wanted to grant tax amnesty to those companies, which enjoyed preferential treatment by the tax authorities under the previous government.
 
The President-proposed bill lists over two dozen of economic crimes, which should fall under the amnesty, among them tax evasion; money laundering; illegal entrepreneurship; counterfeiting which has not resulted into human death or has not harmed health; violation of the excise tax rules; accounting violations; faking financial documents; consumer cheating; large-scale violation of customs rules; commercial bribery.

Criminal proceedings should be dropped from those accused under these charges and those already convicted under these charges should be granted full exemption from punishment, according to the bill, which also says that amnesty should be granted to the crimes committed before January 1, 2013.
 
The bill also envisages legalization of previously undeclared income and property.

If approved, the bill will allow those who want to legalize their undeclared income and property to register their previously undeclared income with relevant authorities within three months. The authorities should keep these declarations confidential. Persons, who will legalize their income, will also be granted tax amnesty for those liabilities related to previously undeclared income. According to the bill persons, who will legalize their income, will have the right to demand from the relevant authorities to either hand them over or to destroy all their previous declarations submitted to the authorities before legalization of their income.

The package bills also includes draft amendments to the criminal code envisaging decriminalization of over dozen of offenses, among them illegal entrepreneurship; restricting competitiveness on the market; counterfeiting which has not resulted into human death or has not harmed health; violation of excise tax rules; obtaining bank credit through false documents and illegal obtaining of loan from the state or misuse of such loan; violation of customs rules; customer cheating. The bill offers to apply monetary fines instead of prison term for committing these crimes.

The bill also envisages reduction of prison terms for several offenses, among them multiple violations of excise tax rules; excise tax forgery; faking tax and financial documents. The draft also proposes to define tax evasion in “large amounts” when case involves over GEL 150,000 instead of current GEL 25,000.

President Saakashvili first announced about planned bill on tax amnesty and decriminalization of economic offenses on January 17.
 
“In the view of existing economic situation, I offer the government to declare complete amnesty for all the tax arrears,” Saakashvili said in January. “In parallel, [the government] should decriminalize economic offenses and not to apply prison terms for such [offenses].”

He said at the time that such move would be important against the background of, as he said, slowed down economic growth and declining foreign direct investments.

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