LAW ON TAX POLICE STUMBLES OVER NMSII DEPUTIES
Some of the MPs from the NMSII are not fascinated by the forthcoming establishment of an agency for fiscal investigation with the Ministry of Finance, the BANKER weekly has learned. The draft bill on the new structure, by force of which the future fiscal agents will get the statute of preliminary investigators and will be entitled to hold inquests on tax offences, was presented on Tuesday (July 13) to the deputies from the NMSII by the Finance Minister Milen Velchev. After the meeting of the group Mr. Velchev and the Chief Tax Inspector Nikolay Popov held a press conference, announcing they were supported by the MPs for the establishment of a tax police. Surprisingly, a day later the bill was not discussed at a joint meeting of the parliamentary legal and foreign policy commissions as initially projected. The official motive was that deputies from the foreign policy commission were too busy with the tragic development of things regarding the two Bulgarian hostages in Iraq. According to unofficial information, however, the draft for the fiscal investigations service has been temporarily frozen, to be additionally considered. Rumours go that the apple of discord between the Finance Ministry and the MPs from the NMSII were some texts from the bill's transitional and final provisions, introducing amendments to the Penal Code. They criminalize several new kinds of tax offences. The motive with which the deputies demanded reconsideration of these texts was the lack of clarity regarding the application of the new clauses. The group of critics is headed by a well-known NMSII deputy from the city of Varna, pundits claim. The almost 30-page stance of the parliamentary Legislative Council which contains a lot of remarks was also in support of the demanded improvement of the bill, moved by the Cabinet. Serious debates are expected on the draft clauses that will amend the Act on Special Intelligence Devices in order to ensure problem-free phone tapping, tracing, and photographing of people, charged with tax offences. As the BANKER has already written, the Government projects that the fiscal investigation service should start operations in the beginning of 2005. It will have a budget of BGN6MN and a personnel of 200 tax agents on pay-roll. The director of the tax police will be appointed for a period of four years by the finance minister upon coordination with the premier. Organisationally, the agency will include two directorates - Fiscal Investigation (the agents, working for it will be practically holding inquests and gathering the necessary evidence to support the accusation), and Special Intelligence Devices and Examinations. With court's permission the fiscal agents will be able to demand lifting of the bank and insurance secret, use special intelligence devices, and assign inspections, checks, etc. to other authorities. The permission for the use of special intelligence devices will be granted as per the well-known procedure used so far - by the chairperson of the respective district court on the demand of the director of the fiscal investigations service. Meanwhile, one of the amendments to the Penal Code makes more precise the definition of due taxes of big and especially big size. The ceiling for big size taxes goes up from BGN3,000 to BGN5,000 and, taxes of especially big sizes are those above BGN50,000. According to pundits, it is quite probable that the difficulties in front of the agency for fiscal investigation would not end by the demands of the MPs from the majority. An eventual response on the part of the Supreme Cassation Prosecutors' Office would be curious. It is known that Prosecutor General Nikola Filchev and his deputy Hristo Machev have recently publicly opposed the idea that tax offences should be investigated by the finance ministry. Lawyers claim that one of the possible scenarios is to ask the Constitutional Court for its ruling on the case.