New Criminal Proceedings Code of Ukraine and Taxpayers ~ U-Tax Blog

Saturday, May 19, 2012

New Criminal Proceedings Code of Ukraine and Taxpayers

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The new Criminal Proceedings Code of Ukraine (hereafter – the “CPCU”) was officially published the other day. The new code will take effect in six months after its publication (on 19 November 2012). This article is devoted to outline what taxpayers can specifically expect of the enactment of the new CPCU.

The biggest blow to taxpayers, in my opinion, is the deprivation of the possibility to challenge a decision on instituting criminal proceedings in court. The institution of criminal proceedings stage is displaced by the entry of the information on a crime into the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations. Although the new CPCU does not preclude the judicial review of the decisions of the pre-trial investigators/prosecutors on making entry into the aforesaid register (the analogue of the decision on instituting criminal proceedings), the corresponding type of complaints are not included in the list of the complaints to be dealt with by a court at the pre-trial investigation stage (s. 303 of the CPCU).

Thus, the court may consider the complaint only after the pre-trial investigation is completed. But the hearing of the complaint at this late stage eliminates any reasonability behind lodging the complaint at all and makes taxpayers virtually defenceless in face of the arbitrarily initiated criminal proceedings.

It should be noted that the adoption of the new CPCU has turned out to be the highly successful continuation of the reform launched by the Tax Code of Ukraine and levelled at the denudation of the taxpayers of the right to oppose the unlawfulness of the institution of the criminal proceedings through the court. The Tax Code of Ukraine has significantly narrowed the possibilities for the judicial review of decisions on instituting criminal proceedings in view of its provision (para 58.4), whereby in the event of the institution of a criminal case the tax assessment ought not to be issued until the final resolution of the case and the delivery of the guilty verdict.

Because of these changes the taxpayers lost their possibility to appeal the tax assessments to administrative courts and later to use the judgments of the administrative courts on abolishing such tax assessments as an argument in favour of the illegality of the institution of the criminal proceedings. The CPCU goes much further by saying complete and the absolute "no" to any attempt on the part of a taxpayer to resist the criminal investigation through a court appeal.

Another no less remarkable aspect of the new CPCU is confining the jurisdiction of the tax police over certain tax-related crimes. In particular, the following crimes will fall outside the jurisdiction of the tax police since the effective date of the new CPCU: s. 191 (misappropriation of property through abuse of office), s. 366 (forgery in office) and s. 367 (neglect of official duty) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (hereinafter – the CCU”). The first section, in practice, is often used for qualifying activities aimed at obtaining illegal VAT refund (the unlawful receipt of VAT refund is viewed as a theft of public funds). The second section is almost always utilized in conjunction with s. 212 (tax evasion) of the CCU, given the fact that tax evasion in most cases is not possible without including false information into the tax returns (e.g. understating income or overstating expenses). Finally, the third section is employed in cases where there is an unintentional failure to pay tax (by virtue of an error, unawareness of tax laws technicalities, etc.).

In the confinement of the jurisdiction of the tax police over certain tax-related crimes one can identify something positive for taxpayers. It can be assumed that, not wanting to give the "lucrative" piece of its work to the ordinary police, the tax police will categorise the cases of illegal VAT refund as tax evasion (s. 212 of the CCU) rather than misappropriation of property through abuse of office (s.191 of the CCU). S. 212 of the CCU, in contrast to s. 191 of the CCU does not entail imprisonment (imprisonment in a tax evasion case is only possible when the fine adjudged has not been paid in time). It can also be supposed that tax evasion will not receive the additional qualification under s. 366 (forgery in office) of the CCU. By the way, the latter, just as s. 191 of the CCU, stipulates imprisonment.

When it comes to the exclusion of s. 367 (neglect of official duty) of the CCU from the jurisdiction of the tax police, it will most likely trigger no changes. In practice, the tax police usually do not utilise this section for the qualification of tax crimes. Even in cases of complete absence of evidence indicating the existence of intent aimed at tax evasion, the tax police in the pursuit of good performance figures institute criminal proceedings under s. 212 (tax evasion) of the CCU. Only during the trial stage the court sees the groundless of the qualification under s. 212 of the CCU and changes it to s. 367 of the CCU.

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