Yet another investigative activities are still ongoing in the tax office, and the negative public reaction is spreading in the media again. Let the investigation and the court figure out who is right and who is guilty.
Unfortunately, over the last ten years, a lot has been done with the tax service under the guise of reform. It was amalgamated and separated, upgraded to the level of the Ministry and re-subordinated to the Ministry of Finance, there were constant structural changes in it, executives with Harvard and other foreign education were no less constantly changed for which the most transparent competitions were held, then there were helicopter rides for them, they were dismissed, removed and returned. Although some manage not to play key roles, but to play second fiddle there for years under all governments and authorities.
The result of these hardships every year, if not more often, is high-profile corrupt newsworthy events, which contribute to the further devaluation of this important work in the eyes of society. The reforms of the tax service itself look like some kind of Sisyphean task, their ineffectiveness only discredits further changes.
It is bitter to see how the idea that all tax officers are bribe-takers is accepted and constantly fueled in society. It is clear that this is not true, as the State Tax Service employs a large number of highly professional and decent people who do their job honestly. And this is the most important thing!
The constant discrediting of the tax service, which is the key and one of the most numerous executive bodies in the country, and the tax activity literally threatens the state independence.
We should cherish no illusions that the next personnel iterations in the top management of the State Tax Service will fundamentally change the situation, it is obvious that there should be system solutions and actions not on paper by making beautiful slides or another change of structure, but real and consistent actions.
Before moving on to constructive proposals, we should probably state the reason why such situations become possible not only in the tax service, but in the public service in general. One of the main reasons, in my subjective opinion, which is formed on the basis of more than a decade of communication and cooperation with civil servants of different authorities, at different levels and in different regions, is that a decent and conscientious civil servant will never in his/her life make a career higher than a certain level of the hierarchy, if he/she does not compromise with management, and there is always someone’s protégé, who by a kind of soft co-optation of “their people” to the system tests you on tolerance and firmness sometimes for years!
Competitions do not solve anything here, but perhaps, on the contrary, only complicate and worsen the situation, because even if non-systemic people get into the public service, they are in the minority there, as a rule, they cannot change anything, and quickly lose interest in everything that happens and go further.
What to do in this situation? Obviously, the most important personnel issue remains unsolved, as we see that in many situations “their people” continue to take the leading roles in key public bodies. In case of the State Tax Service, it is necessary to finally give the opportunity to those specialists who have been working there for a long time, know their stuff, to become leaders. The professional elevator on a meritocratic basis should work. I think it will not be difficult to do that out of nearly 24,000 people of current tax officers. There seem to be enough experiments. Our test object (service!) may not tolerate new ones.
The new management of the State Tax Service should immediately cancel scheduled tax audits, which remain one of the main corrupt means of influencing business. At least there is always a temptation to blackmail a business with them. The State Tax Service should, in the age of informatization and digital technologies, finally develop a working system of risk-oriented control over the activities of taxpayers. In fact, much has already been done in this area. De facto, the service already has complete fiscal registers for personal income tax, VAT, corporate profit tax, which after adequate information and analytical processing show, in fact online, a complete map of tax risks.
The State Tax Service databases should become open for operational control by the Ministry of Finance of Ukraine, and communication between these structures should have not the format of “request-response” or even reporting, but the format of monitoring the service, since reporting without checking is worthless. Transparency is the key to success in combating double standards and possible abuses.
Finally, the most important thing that needs to be changed and at the same time is the biggest drawback of our tax system is the tax code. For almost 12 years since its introduction, this document has grown to more than a hundred pages of Aesopian text, which is full of contradictions, dead norms and omissions. It is time to fix the situation. Lawyers know that “plain text doesn’t need interpretation!” And where there is no interpretation, there are no grounds for corruption or infamous discretionary decisions!
Doctor of Economics, expert of the Growford Institute Kostiantyn Shvabii for Lb.ua