24.03.2017 — Central Bank Lowered Key Rate To 9.75% For the First Time Since 2016

On March, 24 the Board of Directors of the Central Bank decided to lower the key rate to 9.75% per annum. The amended amount of the key rate should be considered when calculating the interest for non-performance of monetary obligation (Art. 395 of the Russian Civil Code), determining the maximum limit for lowering the contractual penalty (Art. 333 of the Russian Civil Code), and for statutory interest in bankruptcy.

Last time the Central Bank lowered the key rate was in September, 2016. This year the decision to lower the key rate is explained by slowdown in inflation, decrease of inflation expectations and gradual recovery of economic activities. The expected GDP growth according to the Central Bank will constitute 1-1.5% at the end of 2017 year and 1-2% in 2018-2019.

At the same time, the Central Bank admits that despite some improvement in the economic situation, the inflation risks are still at an increased level. According to the Central Bank’s expectations, provided that moderately stringent monetary and credit policy remains, the key level of 4% inflation rate will be achieved by the end of 2017 and will be maintained in the future.

23.03.2017 — State Duma Will Consider Possibility to Grant 50% Discount for Customs Fines

The Government brought a bill for the State Duma’s consideration changing the procedure for customs fines payment. According to the bill, companies and individuals will be granted 50% discount for the customs fines if in 30 days they remedy the violations and pay the imposed fine in full. The said measures aim at stimulating the entrepreneurs to the quickest payment of indisputable fines and intend to reduce the growing debts owed to the budget.

In accordance with the legislation in effect the customs fine shall be paid within 60 days, and the premature payment does not provide any benefits to the entrepreneurs. The amount of fine may be reduced only if the entrepreneur manages to prove the existence of mitigating circumstances, in particular, his admission of guilt and timely cessation of violation.

Taking into account the increasing amount of indebtedness for payment of customs fines to the budget that as of today amounts to RUB 1.4 trillion, the Government has prepared a bill, aimed at creation of additional stimulus for entrepreneurs to pay fines timely and voluntarily. The bill is based on a similar experience with traffic fines, where wrongdoers are granted 50% discount if they pay the fine within 20 days. As a result, from the moment when these amendments came into force in the first three weeks 3.4 times more traffic fines were paid when in the previous year.

22.03.2017 — Government Suggests Introducing Separate Legislative Framework for Non-Tax Payments

Currently the Russian Government is working on a bill, introducing amendments to the Budget Code, creating the legislative framework for non-tax payments, payable by the business. The amendments stipulate for the exhaustive list, the amount, the term and procedure for such payments, as well as declare that these payments cannot have retroactive effect, if they deteriorate the taxpayers’ rights.

From mid-2000s’ establishment of non-tax payments by a simplified procedure, without amending the Tax Code, has been a popular practice among the state authorities. In the present moment the amount of non-tax payments is steadily growing, in particular, they include ecological and disposal charges, road toll for transport vehicles exceeding 12 tons, patents, fees for capital repair, the developers’ fees and others. Thus, non-tax payments burden amounts to 0.6% GDP while the total tax burden constitutes 30.77%.

Taking into account the fact that the legal nature of non-tax payments is very similar to taxes, the Government together with the Ministry of Finance consider that it is necessary to establish a legislative framework, which would enable, firstly, to limit the list of such payments and, secondly, would regulate in detail the procedure for their introduction. Currently the Ministry of Finance is preparing the register for non-tax payments, which will provide exhaustive list of such payments. As for the separate legislative framework, now the debates are carried out between the supporters of introduction of a separate law and those who argue that non-tax payments should comply with the general regime provided by the Tax Code.  

21.03.2017 — Director May Be Disqualified for Non-Compensation of Losses to Creditors

In December 2015 the amendments to bankruptcy legislation and to the Code of Administrative Offences, allowing to disqualify a director, who was brought to subsidiary liability for the violation of bankruptcy laws and did not compensate the losses to the creditors, came into effect. By the present moment the courts, assisted by the tax authorities, have established a consistent practice of bringing the directors to liability for the violation of bankruptcy laws up to disqualification and deprivation of the right to hold managerial positions in the future.

It is more than a year since the amendments to bankruptcy laws, toughening the responsibility of the company’s controlling persons, including its management, and strengthening the creditors’ rights guarantees in case of bankruptcy, came into effect. In particular, the company’s controlling persons, brought to subsidiary liability for the company’s obligations, including for causing the company to become bankrupt or untimely notification on the pending bankruptcy, may be disqualified if they do not perform the court decision on compensation of losses caused to the creditors.

The disqualification deprives the controlling persons of the right to hold managerial positions in other companies. Protocols for administrative offence are drawn up by the Federal Tax Service; decisions on imposition administrative liability are taken by the courts. From the moment when the amendments came into force the court practice on disqualification of the company’s management, who refuse to compensate losses to the creditors, became consistent in the most of the judicial districts, including Central, Volga Region, Western-Siberian, Ural and other judicial districts).

20.03.2017 — Payment for Works Cannot Be Conditional On Signing of Commissioning Certificate

The Arbitrazh Court of Moscow Region declared illegal the provision of the construction contract, which stipulated that the final payment should be made after the signing of commissioning certificate, because the formalization of the said certificate depends on the actions of third parties (positive statement of the expert commission), and therefore is not an event, which will inevitably occur. In such cases the obligation to make payment arises from the moment of acceptance of works, including on the base of the certificates of acceptance (KC-2 and KC-3 forms), signed by the contractor unilaterally, if the customer has not provided motivated refusal to sign them within the agreed term.

In a case, adjudicated by the Arbitrazh Court of the Moscow Region (case No.А40-53124/2016), the contractor, having completed the works, delivered to the customer the acceptance certificates (KC-2 and KC-3) and demanded payment for the works performed. However, the customer refused to pay justifying his refusal with reference to the terms of the contract, according to which the payment should be made after the signing of the commissioning certificate.

The court rejected this argument of the respondent and explained that the provision of the contract on payment for the result of works only after the event, the occurrence of which depends on the actions of third parties (in particular, on the obtaining of positive statement of the expert commission), cannot be treated as the condition, stipulating the term, since it does not comply with the criteria of being the event, which will inevitably occur. Therefore, the certificates of acceptance (KC-2 and KC-3), signed by the contractor unilaterally and delivered to the customer, who has not provided motivated refusal to sign them, should be a ground for payment.

Still, the court refused to recover the payment form the customer, because the contractor in violation of Article 726 of the Russian Civil Code had not delivered together with the object the technical documentation, necessary for its operation.