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Russia Hits British Council with Taxes
June 24, 2008 22:50

Russia-UK relations have deteriorated again: the Moscow department of the British Council claims it has received a “punitive and incorrect” tax bill for 2004-2006 by the Russian authorities. The British Council does not reveal the precise tax amount referring to the fact that the case is still being considered by the court.

According to the administration of the British Council, in May the tax inspectorate delivered the bill and threatened with sending court bailiffs for seizure of the books, furniture, and computers from the Moscow office of the British Council, if the indebtedness would not be cancelled.

"The British Council has received a tax claim from the Russian authorities. We dispute most of it. We are going to court to challenge it as allowed under the Russian law," a British Council spokesman said last week. He also added: “We operate in Russia in accordance with all existent juridical norms and dispute some parts of the tax claim that we consider incorrect. The British Council is registered in Russia and pays taxes there. It meets all demands of the tax organs related to its activity”.

On the 19th of June a preliminary hearing over the British Council suit against the Russian Tax Service took place. The central office of the Council in London comments that they do not consider “the current conflict to be outside the framework of the common relations with the tax inspectorate”.

The British Council was founded by the British government as a non-commercial organization promoting the British culture abroad and arranging educational and cultural exchanges. The Council operates in 110 countries of the world. In Russia the Council has operated since the 1990`s when it opened an office in Moscow and later established 15 regional offices in Russia.

 In December 2007 Russia claimed that the offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg must be closed due to they did not have a required legal status. However, after a while the British Council offices resumed operating despite the claims of the Russian authorities which led to another deterioration of the Russia-Britain diplomatic relations. The Russian authorities took it as a provocation. Finally, on the 17th of January 2008 the Council closed the offices in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. Both Russia and the UK linked the closure of the two offices with a diplomatic spat over the murder of the former Russian dissident spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

According to famous the British historian Geoffrey Hosking, Russia seems to take the British Council not only as a commercial organization but as a subversive organization also. Mr. Hosking deems that the Council can hardly be a source of some propaganda due to it mainly deals with connecting workers of culture, science and journalism.

Last week Tony Blair, who came to Moscow to attend a conference for private investors, admitted that the relations between London and Moscow were “difficult”. “It has been a year since I left the office but I still remember the diplomatic language”, he said.


Tags: St. Petersburg Yekaterinburg Russian International   

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