The legislature is in the process of adopting a number of tax benefits intended to stimulate the development of innovative companies and marquee investments in Russia. A new law has expanded the list of expenses that can be excluded from taxable profits. Further, recently passed draft bills have introduced a new investment tax deduction and determined the terms for enforcing the concessionary income tax rates available to investors implementing large investment projects in certain areas.
Article 54.1 of the Tax Code recently came into force. It introduces new rules and definitions regarding legitimate tax optimisation and aims to clarify what is considered legitimate optimisation and what is considered tax evasion. Further, the new rules require the tax authorities to use a less formal approach when assessing the reasonableness of a tax benefit and strive to understand the economic intent of the relevant taxpayer's operations.
Russia recently signed the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty-Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS), which was developed to implement Action 15 of the BEPS Plan. Ratification of the convention will be a serious step towards implementing the measures envisaged in the BEPS Plan, which will change the existing double tax treaty system and have a significant impact on the functioning of international groups of companies in Russia.
The Federal Tax Service recently issued a notification entitled On Identifying the Circumstances of an Unjustified Tax Benefit, which summarises the law enforcement practice associated with assessing the validity of a tax benefit in disputes relating to bad-faith contracting parties. The notification will contribute to the reduction of companies' tax risks relating to an assessment of the validity of their tax benefit when dealing with contracting parties.
Under certain conditions, a company may have a controlled indebtedness, for which the accounting of expenses for profit taxation purposes should be made according to the special rules regarding so-called 'thin capitalisation' stipulated in Article 269 of the Tax Code. Recent changes to the thin capitalisation rules aim to strengthen the barriers that prevent the outflow of capital abroad to the foreign companies of multinationals doing business in Russia.
The procedure for transferring previous years' losses to future tax periods for the purpose of calculating corporate income tax has changed substantially for 2017. Previously, only losses incurred during the 10 years preceding the relevant tax period could be recognised consecutively. As of January 1 2017, the procedure for carrying losses forward has changed and the 10-year limitation on the carrying forward of losses has been abolished.
During 2015 and 2016 the dispute between taxpayers and the tax authorities regarding the exclusion of multinational enterprise groups' Russian subsidiaries from the requirement to pay corporate income tax on so-called 'intra-group expenses' came under scrutiny. The Russian courts have traditionally treated the actions by affiliated companies in this regard liberally. However, in 2016 Russian court practice began to change in favour of the tax authorities.
The State Duma of the Federal Assembly recently passed a new law introducing significant changes to the taxation of foreign companies selling software and internet services in the Russian territory. The so-called 'Google tax' will require foreign companies providing services in electronic form and selling content online to Russian consumers to register with the Russian tax authorities from January 1 2017.