On March 1, 2017 an amendment to the Polish Criminal Code comes into effect adding new categories of crimes including issuing, counterfeiting and remaking fictitious invoices purporting to be genuine. In an official statement, the Office of the President said that the purpose of the new legislation is to combat the practice of extortion of VAT refunds to the detriment of the State Treasury. Under the new law if a false invoice used to defraud the VAT refund relates to goods or services with a value exceeding 5 million zlotys the crime is punishable by 3 to 15 years imprisonment. If the value of the goods or services identified in the false invoices exceeds 10 million zlotys the offense will be punishable by 25 years imprisonment.
The penalty of 25 years imprisonment contains a wide range of problems and limitations for the accused. Extraordinary mitigation for punishment cannot be less than 8 years, while conditional release cannot take place earlier than 15 years. After parole, the probation period is 10 years, while expungement is possible only after the next 10 years counted from the time of its execution or reprieve. The extraordinary punishment of 25 years imprisonment is limited to a few offenses in Poland, enumerated by the Polish Penal Code in the following chapters of the special part of the Code:
- Chapter XVI “Crimes against peace, humanity and war crimes” – e.g. the extermination of population, the use of weapons of mass destruction.
- Chapter XVII “Crimes against the Polish Republic” – e.g. espionage, assassination of the President of Poland.
- Chapter XIX “Crimes against life and health” – e.g. murder or its qualified form.
- Chapter XXXVII “Offences against money and securities” – the only crime of this chapter is the counterfeiting means of payment and securities.
Ally Law member firm Żyglicka and Partners, the author of this article, emphasizes that the enactment of this Act reveals a new, more stringent approach to punish offenders of tax law, stemming from the legislative belief that the penalties previously applied did not come close to matching the magnitude of the damage caused by these crimes. Opponents of the more stringent penalties emphasize that important steps in the fight against tax crimes are a reorganization of the governing administration and changes to the nature of the inspections carried out. Their position is that the increase penalties for tax crimes seems to be primarily political.
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Article by Izabella Zyglicka and Maciej Kwadrans of Ally Law member firm Żyglicka and Partners.