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Wednesday 26.07.2017 | Name days: Ance, Anna, Annija
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BNN summary of the week: Skele doesn’t want to be a loser, USA to transport gas to Lithuania

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Change; Decline; Truth; Business and Growth.

CHANGE: Government and social partners agree on introduction of differentiated PIT

At a meeting of the National Council for Trilateral Cooperation, government representatives and social partners agreed on the introduction of differentiated personal income tax.

The agreement provides that PIT rates will be differentiated based on income forms: 20% for annual income under EUR 20,000, 23% for annual income from EUR 20,001 to EUR 55,000. One section government partners was not agreed upon at the meeting – the tax rate for large wage recipients. Finance Ministry offers transforming solidarity tax by applying solidarity tax calculation principle for PIT. With that, PIT rate for large wage recipients could be 33.5%. Employers opposed this principle, saying that this amount is too high.

Full article here

BUSINESS: Lithuania reaches gas delivery deal with U.S. firm

Lithuania’s gas trading company Lietuvos Duju Tiekimas has this week unveiled that it has sealed a contract to purchase liquified natural from the U.S.

Reuters news agency reports that the deal has been reached with a unit of Cheniere Energy and is part Lithuania’s endeavour to diversify its gas suppliers and reduce its dependence on Russian Gazprom.

Full article here

DECLINE: SRS cannot explain why unequal approach appears in application of fines

Employees of the State Revenue Service do not follow the institution’s guidelines, do not document criteria assessments in accordance with requirements of Latvian Code of Administrative Violations and generally apply fines based on their views, creating an unequal approach, BNN was told by the State Audit.

In its report, SA evaluated the practice of applying fines in the State Revenue Service. Throughout 2014-2016, SRS applied 52,000 fines for a total amount of EUR 12 million. It was concluded in the report that application of fines is inconsistent, deadlines are often missed, the calculation of fines is sometimes impossible to follow and only 53% of all applied fines have been collected over the years.

SRS and Finance Ministry should evaluate the reasons for violations and whether or not application of fines helps reduce the number of violations, SA emphasized in its report.

«The point of administrative punishments, including fines, is to motivate society to follow laws and prevent future violations. SRS can apply 105 different fines. In practice, however, 80% of fines are applied for non-cooperation with tax administration, accounting and declaration submission violations or failure to submit declaration in time,» notes SA.

Full article here

TRUTH: Oligarchs in Latvia have been building up influence by distorting media for years

The conversations tapped in Ridzene Hotel reveal that Latvian infamous oligarchs have been building up their influence over the years by subjugating and distorting media, Ir magazine writes.

«You know what’s s**t? We never resolved… What I said before – we need to agree on social media. We did sort out television, at least. Radio was the only remaining part,» Aivars Lembergs told Ainars Slesers after 10th Saeima elections. In those elections, Slesers’ and Andris Skele’s union Par labu Latviju gained eight seats. «We lost in the short term because there are opponents. What will they do once television and radio are united and private media are in our pocket? They won’t have any resources. We can play this well,» said Slesers.

«Every day they rinse brains,» Lembergs summarized the situation with social media after 10th Saeima elections. Slesers offered forming a union after presidential elections. «Latvian radio and television have ready-made team to cover the entire field. All we need is optimizing activities, relocating to new premises but under a single management,» he said.

Ir reports that such a political concept with involvement of different institutions and experts was developed and would have been realized if not for the sudden decision by Valdis Dombrovskis’ government to put an end to it.

Full article here

GROWTH: Estonia – Right to protection of family life also to same-sex couples

Estonian Supreme Court has established in a decision that same-sex couples also have the right to protection of family life, when the court detailed Estonian court jurisdiction in disputes over residence permits involving foreign nationals.

Estonian public broadcaster ERR reports that in the decision of Tuesday, June 27, the Estonian Supreme Court found that the law does not forbid issuing a residence permit for the duration of an ongoing court dispute for cohabiting with a spouse, also in cases, when a couple has entered in same-sex marriage outside of Estonia.

Full article here

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Farmers Saeima: beef industry in Latvia is not sufficiently developed

Farmers Saeima believes Latvia’s beef industry is not sufficiently developed, and existing farms have not sufficiently stabilized – many farms have major debt. Because of that any kind of support for the industry is welcome.

Puce: Latvia should ratify Istanbul Convention without reservations

For Latvia’s Development political party has turned to Welfare Ministry with a request to ratify Istanbul Convention without any corrections as soon as possible, BNN was informed by the party’s representatives.

More than half of Latvian businessmen work on weekend; study shows

Businessmen normally spend eight hours and five minutes on work every day. More than 58% of Latvian businessmen also work on weekends, according to data from the latest Citadele Index study.

Farmers: crop yield this year will be positive thanks to weather

In Zemgale, crop harvest began a week ago. Harvest of winter crops is almost over. Harvests elsewhere in Latvia will commence no sooner than August, farmers say.

Murniece offers UGF to consider replacing Duklavs

«The policy is that, considering Duklavs’ involvement in Ridzene talks, the Union of Greens and Farmers should consider ways of resolving the situation,» says Saeima speaker Inara Murniece.

Chinese-Russian navy drill takes place in Baltic Sea

Russian and Chinese navies have launched their first joint military drill in the Baltic Sea raising concern to NATO member states Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, cautious of Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine.

Tax loss forecast by Estonian food producers dismissed by Finance Minister

Estonian Finance Minister Toomas Tõniste has rejected the grim forecast published by the Estonian Food Industry Association this week that the state budget would lose 170 million euros in tax revenue in 2018 due to excise tax hikes.

Antane: excise tax for diesel fuel should be reduced, not increased

«Unfortunately, when making the decision to increase excise tax rate for diesel fuel, the government did not consider all possible risks this decision could bring to the transport and logistics industry and the country’s economy as a whole,» BNN was told by President of Baltic Association – Transport and Logistics Inga Antane.

Association: rapid increase of excise tax would cause dramatic rise of smuggling activity

National Association for Tobacco Product Manufacturers is confused about Finance Ministry’s submitted proposals for tax reform that provide for raising excise tax on cigarettes by 11% instead of previously planned 5.5%.

UK plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles

In an attempt to curb air pollution the UK plans to set the goal to ban from 2040 new diesel and petrol engine cars and vans.

Members of Saeima delegated to the investigative committee in charge of Oligarch case

Andrejs Judins from Unity, Martins Sics from Latvian Association of Regions, Igors Pimetovs from Harmnony, Ritvars Jansons from VL-TB/LNNK, Inguna Sudraba from To Latvia from the Heart and Ainars Mezulis from the Union of Greens and Farmers have been delegated to the parliamentary committee for the investigation of Oligarch case.

U.S. legislators back additional sanctions on Russia

The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress has adopted imposing additional sanctions on Russia, North Korea and Iran, even though U.S. President Donald Trump has opposed fresh sanctions on Russia.

Government allows Bite Lietuva to become the owner of TV3, LNT and Star FM

On Tuesday, 25 July, the Cabinet of Ministers permitted Lithuanian company UAB BITE Lietuva to acquire decisive influence in Latvian media companies TV 3 Latvia, LNT and Star FM.

Latvia put on 34th place in global pension index

Latvia is on the 34th place of Natixis Global Asset Management global pension index. It is two places lower than last year, according to the index report for 2017.

Experts predict nearly half of beer consumed in Estonia will be procured in Latvia

Estimates of Estonian alcohol producers and retail traders show that nearly half of all beer and one-third of vodka that will be consumed in the country next year will be procured in Latvia. According to experts, this way Estonia will lose up to EUR 170 million in tax revenue, Postimees reports.

Latvia had the sixth smallest new vehicles registration index in Europe

Compared with the same period of 2016, Latvia has had the sixth lowest registration index for new commercial vehicles in Europe in January-June period, according to data published by European Automobile Manufacturers Association.

LAR proposes reducing micro-enterprise tax to 12%

Latvian Association of Regions proposes establishing micro-enterprise tax rate at 12% instead of 15%, as well as state that calendar year turnover for micro-enterprises is not to be reduced to EUR 40,000, as it is proposed by the government, but to be kept at the current restriction – under EUR 100,000.

Court dismisses Krums from the last of his supervised insolvency process

On Monday, 24 July, Riga Pardaugava Court dismissed the currently arrested insolvency administrator Ilmars Krums from the last one of the insolvency processes currently under his supervision, as confirmed by Insolvency Administration’s representative.

49 «quota refugees» away from Estonia for over 90 days

49 people of the refugees accepted by Estonia as part of the European Union's refugee relocation programme have exceeded the 90-day period of being allowed be away from the country.

Opinion: EU agricultural policy is not equal to all member states

Latvian Association of Agricultural Cooperatives organized a meeting with Agriculture Ministry’s and State Plant Protection Service’s specialists to discuss and search for solutions for opportunities to sow fermented summer rapeseed.

In pictures: Corsica hit by widespread forest fires

Fire-fighters in the French Mediterranean island of Corsica continued on the night to July 25 to battle forest fires covering an area of some 900 hectares.

Can Latvia expect a more rapid rise of excise tax for alcohol and cigarettes?

Finance Ministry has plans to raise excise tax on alcoholic beverages and cigarettes even more rapidly, according to proposals prepared by the ministry to the Excise Tax Law. These proposals have been submitted to the Saeima for approval in the final reading.

LCCI: e-health system will help reduce the number of dishonest patients

«Healthcare Ministry has to secure full integration of e-health system and form a policy for healthcare specialists that is aimed at returning labourers back to work as soon as possible, not issuing countless sick leave certificates,» as noted by representatives of Latvian Chamber for Commerce and Industry.

Swedish government admits «disastrous» data leak

The government of Sweden has stated that one of its agencies has committed a massive leak of sensitive data in 2015, when it organised an information technology outsourcing procedure.

Vucans: there are plenty of proposals for tax reform laws

Around 350 proposals have been received by the Latvian parliament in relation to tax reform laws. Last week, the Saeima supported tax reform laws in the first reading. This week, on the other hand, it is planned to review them in the final reading.