Due to the growth of excise taxes, illegal cigarette sales increased 10 times

Photo: Evgeniya GUSEVA

Since 2016, the rate of excise duty on cigarettes and cigarettes has increased 1.9 times. And the share of illegal sales is more than ten. This state of affairs interested the Accounts Chamber, which analyzed what was happening with excise taxes and how it affected the “smoking” market in 2016 – the first half of 2021.

Excise taxes on tobacco and everything related to it give the federal treasury about 3% of all revenues. Until 2018, revenues from them grew – in proportion to the increase in rates. But in 2018-2019, as follows from the analysis of the Accounts Chamber, something broke: excise taxes increased, and revenues to the treasury began to fall.

And it seems that you can see more good in this: they wanted the people to smoke less, so they achieved it. From 2016 to 2020, the volume of sold cigarettes and cigarettes decreased by almost 28%. The reasons – yes, quitting smoking and switching to electronic cigarettes. And … the growth in sales of illegal tobacco products, from which the excise tax, of course, does not go to the budget.

The Accounts Chamber cites estimates of independent analysts, according to which the share of “leftist” sales increased to 10.7% in 2021. That is, in comparison with 2016, as we have already said, more than 10 times. And the budget losses due to this regrettable fact, already according to the estimates of the Accounts Chamber itself, since 2016 amounted to 295.6 billion rubles.

To whitewash the tobacco market, a product labeling system was introduced. And here too – interesting things. Last year, 11.1 billion packs of cigarettes were labeled. Registered in the information system as “out of circulation”, that is, sold, only 5.6 billion. The question is, where are the rest? It turns out that the legally produced goods then disappear somewhere.

– For 2021, excise rates for almost all types of tobacco and nicotine-containing products were increased by 20%. This caused discontent among both businesses and consumers. Against the background of an increase in excise taxes, there is an increase in the share of illegal sales of tobacco products – in some regions it is more than 40%, – notes the auditor of the Accounts Chamber Andrey Baturkin.

As one of the reasons for the growth of illegal activity, the report cites the difference in the rates of excise taxes on cigarettes in Russia and among our brothers in the Eurasian Economic Union (Belarus, Kazakhstan, etc.), with whom we have a common customs border.

What to do? “Chetka” proposes to transfer part of the proceeds from excise taxes on tobacco to the regional budgets. Now there is no incentive at the local level to fight for order and proper monitoring, because all excise taxes on cigarettes go to the federal budget.

The Ministry of Finance believes that such a redistribution will enrich the most affluent regions.

– About 90% of tobacco production is concentrated in the territory of only five regions, and a significant part of the working-age population lives in the most well-off regions (Moscow, Moscow region, Saint Petersburg), which, accordingly, account for a significant part retail sales of tobacco products, – said Elena Lebedinskaya, Director of the Revenue Department of the Ministry of Finance of Russia.

At the same time, according to her, it is worth returning to the issue when the system for monitoring the turnover of tobacco products is fully operational: now there is not enough information on sales by regions to analyze the consequences of the redistribution of excise taxes proposed by the Accounts Chamber.

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