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Value Of Ministry Of Finance Letters

The Ministry of Finance has stated in a letter that its letters are of value only to those whom they directly address. Such letters are issued in response to specific questions posed by specific tax payers.

The Tax Code grants the Ministry of Finance the authority to provide taxpayers with written explanations of tax legislation and its implementation.

The written explanations are not regulatory legal acts, therefore they are not subject to mandatory official publication.
These letters are not officially published in mass media and in legal information systems.

The letters only help those who directly posed the question. If the Ministry of Finance’s advice is incorrect, then Tax Code laws are applied but there are no penalty fees for back taxes accrued, or blame for a tax violation, when following Ministry of Finance advice.

This is hardly news. The campaign to clarify – and diminish – the letters' legal significance began as early as August 7, 2007.
However, there is a difference among the letters. For example, there are some Ministry of Finance letters directed at lower sub-divisions of the Federal Tax Service. Thus, there is no way that taxpayers can simply disregard such letters, as they may change the way the Tax Service operates. 

The Constitutional Court has ruled that it is possible to appeal Ministry of Finance decisions if they truly cause tax authorities to place demands on the taxpayer.

Therefore, the courts should not formally investigate Ministry of Finance letters, but instead simply decide whether or not such letters can truly affect taxpayer rights. Only then will taxpayers receive judicial protection and restoration of their Constitutional rights.

Evidently, the Ministry of Finance’s claim that the letters can only vindicate the taxpayer who poses the question is not entirely true.

For example, in one decision, the Supreme Arbitration Court actually ruled against charging  default interest and penalty payments to taxpayers who followed Ministry of Finance letters distributed in the information system known as  “Legal Code,” (in Russian: Кодекс) which assists taxpayers in complying with Russian law.

In spite of the Ministry of Finance’s attempts to present its letters as "light reading," the courts do not support such “levity” in statements of their own opinion by the Ministry.

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