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UNS info

05. 03. 2020.

Author: D. Bjelica, J. Pešić ???source???: UNS

UNS paying 2.5 times higher tax than tycoons

The state is asking the Journalists’ Association of Serbia to pay a total of over 60,000 EUR in this year for the property tax due to which the journalists could lose part of the property, on top of which they are already burdened with a long-term loan and with half as much money in the solidarity funds that have been designed to help those in need.

Instead of UNS continuing to provide the material support to journalists of about 140,000 EUR per year for interest-free loans and grants, huge money will be re-directed to the budget of Belgrade municipalities.

This non-profit association is not paying the high taxes because it has a large property and this is testified by the fact that if the owner of the same property had been be a Serbian tycoon, and not UNS, this tycoon would have been paying 2.5 times smaller amount.

In the terms of tax, therefore, it would have been more profitable for Miroslav Mišković, Philip Zepter, or, say, Petar Matić, who have nothing to do with the protection of journalists and freedom of speech whatsoever, to own, as large legal entities, the house of journalists than to his “small” owner – UNS.

If, for example, UNS would move its property from Belgrade to the center of Ljubljana (Slovenia) or Zagreb (Croatia), the capitals of member states of  the European Union, they would have paid three times lower tax or they would not pay it all because it does not exist. 

UNS data for the region show it is most difficult in the financial aspect to be a journalists’ association with the property in the Serbian capital of Belgrade because of the extremely high taxes and their selective collection.

Is there logic?

Representatives of the journalists’ organizations in the region have been confounded by the amount of over 60,000 EUR that UNS has to pay in this year as the owner of 3,370 square meters in the center of Belgrade.

To be more precise, the municipal tax authorities have been asking since a few days before New Year 40,000 EUR for the current and over 20,000 EUR retroactively for last year, for which UNS already regularly paid 15,000 EUR.

“The amount of 40 thousand EUR in taxes is indeed a huge amount. Last year, we paid a little less than 700 EUR for 182 square meters”, Anastazia Stepić from the Journalists’ Association of Slovenia replied to UNS.

In Slovenia, legal entities do not pay for the property tax, but they pay to the municipality an annual fee for the use of construction land.

“This amount varies from one year to another. It has gone up in the last couple of years. Last year, it was 3.83 EUR per square meter”, Stepić explained.

Thus, the tax on building land for the UNS property, if it were in Ljubljana and if we situated it at the site of the Slovenian Journalists' Association, would have been 12,907 EUR for the last year, which is three times lower than what UNS should pay in Belgrade.

Croatia’s system is even more favorable because there is no property tax for legal entities and citizens.

“We are not paying the tax on building land and property taxes. We are paying about 1,400 EUR annually as the utility fee that goes to the local self-government and this is paid by all citizens and legal entities”, Filip Lukina from the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) told UNS.

The HND building in downtown Zagreb has about 4,000 square meters, including the attic.

If UNS moved its property to Zagreb, the amount that they would be paying would be at least 30 times lower than in Belgrade.

There have been no surprises in the last ten years for the Journalists’ Association of Macedonia, which owns two buildings in the center of Skopje with a total area of 250 square meters.

“Once a year we get an invoice from the City of Skopje for payment of the property tax, which is always same - in the amount of 200 EUR”,  Elizabeta Stojanovic told UNS.

If UNS moved its property to the center of Skopje, they would be required to pay 2,696 EUR for the property taxes, which is almost 15 times lower than in Belgrade.

“In Bosnia and Herzegovina, we neither pay the property tax nor fee building land. We have premises with 270 square meters”, Amra Crvenjak from the Journalists’ Association of BiH said to UNS. Thus, the tax in Sarajevo would amount to 0 EUR for UNS.

Suffocation by taxes

The paradox of Serbian public finances, according to a survey carried out by UNS, is evident in the fact that the little ones need to pay considerably more than big ones.

For example, UNS as a small legal entity must pay 40,000 EUR for the property taxes per year, and the owner of a big business from the beginning of the text would have to pay only 15,000 EUR for the same property.

“A normal person cannot understand this. UNS was paying the taxes between 15,000 and 16,000 EUR, which is  more than in the countries that have two or three times better standard than ours. And now we are required to pay over 40,000 EUR, which I interpret as a pressure and tax prosecution”, Secretary General of UNS Nino Brajović says.

He explains that the actions of the tax authorities in the end of the last year occurred simply overnight.

He says that UNS consulted a number of experts, analyzed the opinions of the Ministry of Finance, the laws in this area, and finally concluded that the tax authorities made it possible from 2014 onwards for small companies that embraced the international accounting standards to express the value of property at fair market price and pay taxes accordingly as large companies.

“The tax authorities understood the scale of the disaster. They interpreted that the small business have the right to a fair value of the property if they accept the international accounting standards, abbreviated to which they are bound by the law. We concluded that with the change of the Law on Property Tax in the end of 2018, there was a turnabout that led to the discrimination of small ones and favoring of the large business”, Brajovic says.

Brajovic is concerned that the imposition of the staggering tax to UNS could be reasonably interpreted as a strong pressure on this journalists’ association, which puts its independent work at risk.

“UNS requested the data from all local tax administrations in Belgrade to whom else they imposed such a tax increase and they received 15 same answers -  ‘we do not have the requested information”, Brajović says.

Brajović says that UNS in such a situation that they must either sell part of the property or borrow from banks in order to pay the taxes.

In its research, UNS obtained the information that the Montenegrin Journalists’ Association and the Union of Media in Montenegro do not have any property in Montenegro. The same is with the Union of Journalists of Slovenia, the Independent Union of Journalists and Media of Macedonia, BH Journalists’ Association and the Journalists’ Association of the Republic of Srpska.

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