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Accounts abroad as an indulgence for the past sins
29 September 2015
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According to various estimates, Ukrainians keep from $30 billion to $50 billion abroad. Most of these funds were illegally placed in the accounts of foreign banks. Why illegally? Because without a license from the NBU, it is prohibited for Ukrainian citizens to have accounts in foreign financial institutions and it is even a criminal offense. Only several people have actually got an NBU license. The rest refused to get a license for one simple reason - to avoid paying the taxes. Not only the wealthy Ukrainians and the businessmen did not want to pay taxes but also the so-called "Gastarbeiter" (German for migrant laborer - Tr.). And now the National Bank issued a decree that makes it easier to settle accounts abroad.

Why was this decision made now? The state needs money and needs it in a much greater quantity than international lenders are now ready to provide. Therefore, the government is looking at their own people who today can become the most generous investor of the country. The main thing is to give the right incentives.

The state represented by the National Bank is trying to persuade the Ukrainians, who keep their money abroad, to legalize them in exchange for a very specific "perks." If earlier one had to obtain the license for placement of funds in advance, now thanks to NBU decree No. 479 citizens are now offered an extension of 24 months - in fact, it is offered to legalize their savings in hindsight.

By itself, this extension will not lead to the mass obtainment of licenses by citizens. After receiving the license, one should declare the funds to the tax office and pay the income tax. Perhaps, some part of the patriotic citizens will go for it, because the government now has a certain credibility of the population. In general, it is a good signal indicating that the state is ready for a civilized dialog and compromise, instead of criminal prosecution. However, this initiative should become only one of the stages of the whole complex of measures aimed at improving the economic climate in the country. Otherwise, it is meaningless.

For example, in the British history there was a period when the movement of capital was limited, i.e., to place money in foreign banks, permission by the State was required, as it is now in Ukraine. But today over there, as in most developed countries, the capital has the right to move freely around the world. The more developed a country is, and the less critical the outflow of capital for it is, the more freedom is given to citizens to open accounts abroad without permission from the state. But on one condition: all the incomes must be declared to the tax office.

Just the need of declaring the income for a license of the National Bank will become a stumbling block in the way of legalization of foreign funds. NBU has no benefit from the simplification of the rules to obtain a license if no taxes are paid from these funds. Today, the income tax is 15%, i.e. the state can potentially get from 4.5 to 7.5 billion US dollars into the government coffers.

But will the Ukrainians want to declare their foreign accounts in exchange only for the right to "peaceful sleep"? Hardly. Most likely, this Decree is only the first step in a chain of events from the NBU. Tax amnesty, which has proven effective in other countries, can become the next step. For example, income tax for these people will be not at 15%, but only at 10% or even at 5%. Yes, in this case, the state will receive less tax, but then the legalization of income will be much more attractive. After all, these funds can be fairly easy transferred to Ukraine, for example, to invest in the business.

Another step of the government should be an indulgence for business. It will also allow the government to recover the funds of many citizens. It is not so simple for an individual to open an account at a foreign bank, because the banks are well aware of the fact that this requires an individual license of the NBU, and are not going to violate the law, even of another country. Only individuals who have a work visa can open an account. Those who do not have one, open offshore companies. Large amounts are located in the accounts of offshore companies and the government needs to prepare a very sweet "carrot" for their owners.


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