Draft legislation on the declaration of assets approved by the cabinet

Ivan Pilip

The cabinet has approved draft legislation on the declaration of private assets. The new law, if passed, would force all those whose property exceeds 10 million Czech crowns - that's around 250,000 US dollars - to declare its value to the revenue office. Alena Skodova has the details.

This bill has been debated in the Lower House once before, in 1999, but MPs failed to approve it. Now the Ministry of Finance has come up with a slightly modified version, which is said to have been designed to keep the Social democrat government's pre-election promise on creating a law that would force wealthy people to declare everything they own. Upon closer inspection, the new draft has only one change - concerning how often the declaration is to be made. The cabinet agreed on Wednesday that the first declaration was to be made in 2002, then in 2004 and from then on every third year.

The opposition parties have already clearly demonstrated their disapproval of the draft law, and MP Ivan Pilip of the centre-right Freedom Union explained why:

Ivan Pilip
"I think that behind is an attack against people who are more wealthy than the rest of the nation, and that's a bit populistic step from the side of the government. I think there's no real chance that it could improve tax collection. I'm almost sure that nobody, who has some property, a house, a land or shares in a company, really knows what is the value of his property, because it goes through changes."

The government might feel that this will be its victory over those, who do not pay their taxes properly. But will there any real be winners or losers? And is there any chance that the bill could make it through parliament?

"The only winners would be people who do estimates of value or prize of property, the losers would be tens of thousands of people who could be forced to fill in many papers, who can be even corrupted or attacked by their neighbours that they had not declared their property, and the budget will not be richer. We are united and I don't think the new law will have a chance to pass through parliament, but it will be used from the side of the Socila democrats to say - 'yes, we wanted to improve the tax collection, but the opposition did not adopt the law we had proposed', but it's just a game, it's not reality."

The new law would affect tens of thousands of people in the Czech Republic. But while the government has proposed it to prevent tax evasion and money laundering, no possible sanctions for breaking the law have been mentioned. According to Mr. Pilip, by setting the public eye on the rich, the cabinet is only trying to distract the people's attention from its other, unsuccessful measures.

"The government failed doing data collection, they had promised a lot of things before the elections, they promised better collection of taxes, and these are now the debt from the side of the people to the state - it was 60 billion crowns, now it's over a hundred billion crowns, and the government just tries to move the feelings of people to other directions in order to hide their day to day activities or their authorities and offices."