The issue is whether the so-called Tax USKOK will be part of the Tax Authority or will remain independent.
The Independent Office for Tax Fraud Detection was founded two years ago as a separate, independent agency within the Finance Ministry. In that time, it discovered major tax fraud cases involving more than a billion kuna. However, according to Finance Minister Zdravko Marić, the Office will now be merged with the Tax Authority, reports Novi List on November 13, 2016.
Finance Minister claims that the Office, which is also informally called the Tax USKOK (Office for Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime), will continue with its work and will even be further strengthened, but will no longer be under the direct authority of the minister, but “where it belongs, in the Tax Authority”.
Marić denied allegations that the merger of the Office with the Tax Authority means it would no longer exist, noting that its employees are still attending additional education courses and will continue to do their jobs. “I do not understand why this office should be under my or any minister’s influence. Why would a minister have direct access to cases that the Office deals with? It will continue to do its job, and the director of the Tax Administration will have his or her assistant for the Office”, said Marić.
Asked whether the “Tax USKOK” is being discontinued, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that “it is a part of the Tax Administration, or the Finance Ministry, and will continue to operate”.
Half a year ago – when HDZ also proposed the merger – MOST strongly objected to the proposal, saying that it would reduce its efficiency. “The question is in whose interest it is to restore the old procedures, when the new solution has proven to be so good”, said MOST at the time.
Asked what will MOST do this time, its MP Maro Kristić said that he hoped no reaction would be necessary since they will try to leave the things as they are now through discussions. “That is unacceptable for us. Maybe Minister Marić thinks that the Office would be more efficient, but that is not so. We know it from earlier experience, when the Tax Authority did its job. Instead, we should strengthen it and make it more independent”, said Kristić.
Perhaps the most famous case that the Office opened is the one concerning Zdravko Mamić, the boss of Croatian football. The Tax Administration does have its own department for detecting tax fraud, but its results are not as good as the results of the Office, which was established by Finance Minister Boris Lalovac (SDP).
“My question to the Minister, who already tried to abolished the Tax USKOK in April, but failed, is this: Why and for whom is he doing it?” asked MP Peđa Grbin (SDP).