LOOKING UP AT THE BALCONY

2013-06-24The Ukrainian government is planning to introduce some new taxes. There’s going to be a tax on  travelling abroad for vacations and a tax on buying the equipment for playing audio- and video recordings. Earlier the Cabinet of Ministers decided on a 15 percent tax on all money transfers the Ukrainian residents receive from abroad. In a newspaper interview a Ukrainian migrant who is currently working in Portugal periodically sending money to his aged parents says that he is already doing what the state is supposed to do – he is providing social protection for the elderly in case of the latter’s disability. Why should he be taxed, then? Besides, he wouldn’t have gone abroad to work there if the Ukrainian government had guaranteed him the right to earn his living through the work he is qualified to do in his native country (that’s what the Constitution declares). On the other hand, he says, for very obvious reasons the tax authorities are overlooking a much richer fiscal source of filling the budget coffers – the offshore accounts of the Ukrainian money-bags.

The new analyst Serhiy Hrabovs’kyi sarcastically suggests that the Ukrainian law-makers should do a research in history of taxation in order to expand their imaginative powers along these lines. In the 17th-century Germany (Württemberg) a “sparrow tax” was introduced: a citizen was freed from paying the tax if he showed a dozen sparrows killed by him (sparrows were believed to eat too much grain). Peter the Great taxed those who wore beards, who washed in steam-baths, celebrated birthdays, arranged weddings or observed death anniversaries. In Russia in the early 20th century a citizen had to pay a tax for the right to ride a bicycle. In the czarist Bashkorstan even the color of eyes was taxed: those who had brown eyes had to pay 6 kopecks to the state budget and people with grey eyes – 4 kopecks. In the 1950s the Ukrainian villagers had to pay a tax for every fruit tree they were growing in their gardens. Quite recently, in Armenia a resident was taxed if there was too much dust in their yards…

Attempts to “invent” more and more of new taxes signal that Ukraine is slipping into a recession – a second recession in the last four years.  The IMF predicts zero growth for the Ukrainian economy this year.

About four years ago, when Ukraine was hit by the first wave of recession, the then mayor of Kyiv made up his mind to introduce a tax on glazed balconies. I remember a couple of Zhek employees (people who work at the local housing-utilities offices) standing in front of our 16-storeyed building listing the balconies with glass windows. However, after some shorter time the recession subsided, the mayor was kicked out from his job and the issue was diffused. Yet…let me look through the window… Isn’t there a couple of ladies down there with a note-pad and a pencil looking up at my balcony?

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