#8 - JRL 7066
The Guardian (UK)
February 18, 2003
Russian taxpayers to face lie detector
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Russians are to be given lie-detector tests by one of Moscow's most feared authorities: not the security services or the army conscription department but the tax police.
Regulations recently approved by the department, whose employees smash down doors during masked raids, permit certain measures to be taken against people suspected of committing, or considering committing, offences.
Rekindling fears of a return to powers exercised during Russia's Stalinist past, they include "questioning in the form of special psychological analysis", and lie-detector tests.
An order signed by the deputy director of the tax police, Sergei Verevkin-Rakhalsky, requires written permission for the test, but implies that "preventive action" may be taken if a suspect refuses.
People aged between 14 and 18, who are not normally liable for taxation, cannot be tested without the written permission of their parents, the order says.
"How can a child be a tax offender?" Maxim Maximovski, of the lawyer firm Pepeliaev and Goltsblat, said to the newspaper Kommersant.
"Never. This part of the instructions are to enable the police to use children to inform on their parents."
Russian tax laws are ignored or evaded by much of the population.
Income tax remains 13%, regardless of income, but individuals and companies go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it. Workers are often paid in cash.
As budgets groan and state wages go unpaid, officials are trying to stop evaders.
The instructions also permit the tax police to contact the families of people who might be considering evasion and ask them to "positively influence" their relatives.
MPs compared the new law to regulations in the worst years of Soviet rule. "This isn't 1937 [the time of the last great Stalinist purge]," said one. "This is worse."