09.09.2016 — Land Reform: It Will Be Easier for Developers to Get the Desired Category of Permitted Use of Lands

The amendments providing for re-arrangement of land categories by territorial zoning have been introduced to the State Duma. Thus, instead of seven categories of land plots there will be 16 types of territorial zones (residential, industrial, agricultural, etc.), 21 zones with special conditions of use (for objects of transport, communication, power, defense and cultural heritage), while the forests, water funds and especially protected natural territories will get a special status. Such changes will be favorable to real estate developers, as they will lead simplify the procedure of  changing the permitted use of lands.

It is planned that the new rules will enter into force at the beginning of 2021. Until then, federal, regional and municipal authorities have to develop corresponding rules for land use and land development, as well as agricultural and town-planning regulations.

The amendments propose advantageous changes for construction businesses. In particular, according to the bill owners of land plots will be able to choose any kind of the permitted use which is available for the corresponding territorial zone without additional approval by the state authorities. However, there are concerns that as a result of such liberation farmlands and forests will be overbuilt, and certain arrangements profitable for local businesses will be lobbied through municipal authorities, to which a number of significant legislative decisions will be delegated.

08.09.2016 — Cybercrimes to Be Considered Theft Acts

Since the existing punishment for hackers does not correlate with the actual damage caused by them, Sberbank and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) with the assistance of the Bank of Russia have drafted amendments that set cybercrimes equal to theft. The bill is based on experience of other developed countries, such as the USA, where liability for cyberfraud can result in up to 25 years of imprisonment.

Be reminded that at the moment cybercrimes are legally considered an act of fraud, only punishable by up to 5 years of imprisonment. Furthermore, in reality cybercriminals are often put on probations rather than imprisoned. In the opinion of the Bank of Russia, such punishments are absolutely disproportionate to the harm caused by the illegalities.

However, there are concerns that such amendments could bear excessive character. In particular, blurry wording of the bill may result in cases when downloading of non-licensed software will be sentenced with a disproportionately strict punishment.

07.09.2016 — Continuous Economic Crisis in Russia Caused New Wave of Bankruptcies

According to the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting (CMASF), in June, 2016, decreasing profitability of business assets entailed liquidation of more than 1100 companies mostly working in the sphere of trade, construction, machinery and commercial services. Besides, the aggregate salary and loan debts of private companies continue to grow, currently exceeding the figures of 2014 by 80%.

According to the experts, the primary reasons for the increasing number of bankruptcies include continuous economic crisis, GDP fall, decrease in the purchasing capacity, and ambiguous forecasts concerning further economic growth of Russia.

The greatest intensity of bankruptcies was demonstrated in the Southern Federal District (42% above country-average) and the Central Federal District (10% above country-average). The North Caucasian and Northwest districts are distinguished by the lowest level of bankruptcies. The Far Eastern Federal District even demonstrated a decrease in the number of bankruptcies by 18,2%.

In order to avoid transactions with the companies which are on the verge of bankruptcy, it is important to perform checks on contractors before entering into transactions, first of all monitoring financial performance of the legal entities, in particular, sustainability in return on assets of the company and current liquidity.

06.09.2016 — Ministry of Justice to Provide Additional Protection of Creditors’ Rights

The Ministry of Justice has developed amendments according to which banks may not open accounts and deposits for organizations whose accounts had been suspended earlier. Besides, it is planned that a certificate on the absence of debts under enforcement will be required for creation or reorganization of legal entities and for registration as a sole entrepreneur. The document is supposed to come into force in January 2017.

In particular, the amendments are directed towards reducing the total number of indebted legal persons. According to the Federal Tax Service, by mid-2016, private companies and sole entrepreneurs had accumulated 1,3 trillion rubles in tax debts.  

The authors suppose that the automatic imposition of such measures, namely the prohibition to open bank accounts, will be an extremely effective tool for protection of creditors’ rights. However, some experts worry that the restrictions on opening of bank accounts and deposits will violate the laissez-fair principle and block activities of the legal entities affected.

05.09.2016 — Automatic Exchange of Tax Information Agreements Force Banks to Disclose Data on Foreign Clients

The Ministry of Finance has published a bill according to which banks, managing and insurance companies, depositaries, brokers, pension funds and trusts are obliged to disclose account information of foreign clients to the Federal Tax Service. Refusal to disclose such information or violation of the time limits for disclosure will be penalized by a fineranging from 300 000 to 500 000 rubles.

After collecting the information on investment revenues of foreign clients, on their sale of shares, account balance, on deposit, bonds and accumulative insurance interests, as well as on payments made, the authorities will transfer it to the tax authorities of the countries which are parties to the international agreement on automatic exchange of information.

It will be mandatory for banks to provide the stated information on all foreign residents, and not just the residents of those countries which established an information exchange system with Russia. Banks are to independently verify authenticity of the data submitted to the authorities. At the same time, the client's consent for the disclosure of information is not required. If the client does not want to provide the data, the financial organization is authorized to refuse account opening or to terminate the already signed agreement and to close the account.