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President Vladimir Putin is pushing harder on Russia’s richest citizens to repatriate offshore assets amid a slump in the rouble and the imposition of sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union, according to a Bloomberg report.
Under the new “de-offshorisation” tax rules, Russian residents will from this year pay a tax of 13% on earnings reported by foreign companies and trusts they control. Should authorities prove those entities are managed from Russia and don’t have significant assets or employees abroad, the tax rate increases to 20%.
“Many owners have started to move equity ownership of business assets to Russia,” said Artem Toropov, a Moscowbased lawyer at Goltsblat BLP who deals with international tax structuring.
Russian policy makers are struggling to contain the country’s worst currency crisis since 1998 after oil prices slumped and the U.S. and European Union i mposed sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine. The new tax comes three years after Putin backed efforts to persuade Russian entrepreneurs and officials to repatriate as much as $1 trln held in offshore centres from Cyprus to Switzerland.
USM Holdings Ltd., a British Virgin Islands-registered company co-owned by billionaire Alisher Usmanov, said on December 19 it had transferred controlling stakes in wireless operator MegaFon (MFON) and iron-ore producer Metalloinvest Holding Co. to Russian units because the companies “have strategic i mportance for the Russian economy.” Usmanov is Russia’s second-richest person with a $14 bln net worth.
The same day, Vladimir Litvinenko, Putin’s campaign manager in St. Petersburg during elections in 2000 and 2004, said he transferred 4.81% of fertiliser maker PhosAgro from an overseas trust to Russia, raising his direct stake to 14.54%. Litvinenko is also head of the St. Petersburg Mining University, where Putin got a doctorate in 1997.
The co-owners of Moscow Vnukovo airport also transferred a stake of 81% from two Cyprus companies to Russian-registered Vnukovo Aliance last week to satisfy the law, Chairman Vitaliy Vantsev told RIA Novosti on January 16.
Those moves are helping reverse an outflow of assets from Russia over the previous 20 years. The Russian central bank deployed emergency steps including interest-rate increases and spent $88 bln in interventions to prop up the rouble, which has declined almost 50% against the dollar in the past 12 months.
All of Russia’s 20 richest people controlled a portion of their total $181 bln fortune through holding companies registered overseas, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Billionaire Viktor Rashnikov in December consolidated his 87.3% stake in Magnitogorsk Iron & Steel in one Cyprus company instead of two, a possible precursor to transferring the ownership to Russia, according to George Buzhenitsa, an analyst at Deutsche Bank AG in Moscow.
While it may be in the interests of oligarchs to repatriate