Riigikogu made amendments to Customs Act
The Riigikogu passed with 89 votes in favour the Act on Amendments to the Customs Act (84 SE), initiated by the Government. The aim of the Act is to enhance the customs control, to regulate more specifically the establishment of free zones, the obligations of holders of a free zone or free warehouse, and carrying on an activity in a free zone or free warehouse, and to simplify the transfer of confiscated cultural valuables. The legal basis for the use of the automatic number identification system for customs is established and the use of X-ray equipment upon examination of goods is regulated. The Tax and Customs Board uses the number identification system for identification of registration numbers and designators of the means of road and rail transport and marine containers on the external border. The Act also extends the circle of the recipients of confiscated goods and amends the Act such that the Tax and Customs Board may transfer cultural valuables to an agency designated by the Minister of Culture. The Act enters into force on 1 March 2012.
On the motion of the Rural Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Restrictions on Acquisition of Immovables Bill (108 SE), initiated by the Estonian Reform Party Faction and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union Faction, was concluded. In similarity to the Act which is currently in force, the aim of this Act is to provide the restrictions on the acquisition of immovables used as profit yielding land arising from public interest, and of immovables located in the area related to national security considerations. In comparison to the current regulation, the restrictions on the acquisition of agricultural and forest land for residents of the Contracting States of the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as OECD member states are reduced, preserving however national defence and security restrictions on transfer on small islands and border areas in respect of states not members of the EEA. On the basis of the above, the Bill provides equivalent conditions for the acquisition of agricultural or forest land in Estonia for residents of the Contracting States of the EEA and OECD member states. Thus, residents of OECD member states will be included in the range of persons who, as of 1 May 2011, are not subject to the requirements of residing in Estonia, entry in the Estonian commercial register, as well as acquiring the experience of the production of agricultural products or forest management in Estonia in event of the acquisition of immovables used as agricultural or forest land. Another important aim of the Bill is to regulate the restrictions on the acquisition of immovables arising from national security consideration. Restrictions on the acquisition of immovables are connected with ensuring the national security of Estonia in the broadest sense. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Economic Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Public Procurement Act (113 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments transpose the relevant Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council. The aim of the Directive is to establish separate rules for the awarding of contracts in the fields of defence and security in order to open up the defence procurement market to a wider circle of tenderers. So far, the market has been relatively closed because defence equipment is nearly always subject to procurement on the basis of an exception. Once the directive will be transposed, uniform rules will be established for contracting authorities for procurements where it is impossible to apply the usual procedure provided for in the Public Procurement Act. Accordingly, the directive lays down measures which the contracting authorities can use additionally in the case of contracts in the fields of defence and security (protection of classified information and security of supply requirements). With application of these requirements, it will be possible to carry out public procurements related to national security more openly and, consequently, a greater number of tenderers will have an opportunity to participate in these procurement procedures. The Bill also increases the transparency of public procurements in the fields of defence and security. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Social Affairs Committee, the second reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Employment Contracts Act and Other Associated Acts (129 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments are due to the need to transpose the Temporary Agency Work Directive and the Parental Leave Directive, respectively. The Bill simplifies the conclusion and extension of fixed-term contracts in the case of temporary agency work, enables employers more easily to extend fixed-term contracts or conclude them again in the case of a temporary agency work relationship, and provides equality of temporary agency workers working in several places and user undertakings’ workers, establishing the right of temporary agency workers to the same occupational health and safety, working time and rest period, and pay conditions. In addition, the same catering, transport and childcare services will have to be guaranteed to them as are guaranteed to comparable user undertakings’ workers. The Bill was sent to the third reading.
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Fuel and Electricity Excise Duty Act and the Alcohol Act (150 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The Act is amended in connection with implementation of the third stage of the development of the electronic system of delivery note (eSL) as of 2012. As a result of the improvement of the eSL system, the obligation of the undertaking to notify the tax authority through the eSL system of refusal to receive excise goods, and incidents with excise goods in intra-Community transport thereof will be provided in the excise duty Act. Also, the excise duty rate of the aviation spirit used for non-commercial purposes will be raised to the same level with the excise duty rate of leaded petrol as of 1 July 2012, and the excise duty exemption of shale-derived fuel oil used as domestic heating fuel will be eliminated. It will also be possible to sell cigarettes with revenue stamps affixed to a block in the customs control zones of airports in the same way as it is allowed on board a boat or aircraft making sea-crossings or flights between two Member States. As a general rule, the revenue stamp has to be affixed to the sales packaging of cigarettes. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Value Added Tax Act (146 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. This Act amends above all the requirements for invoices in the Value Added Tax Act. In order to avoid tax evasions related to the turnover of gold, the amendments establish a special reverse charge arrangement as is the case with the turnover of metal waste and immovables; the regulation to that effect entered into force in 2011. According to the Ministry of Finance, the amount of value added tax refunds relating to transactions with gold has soared dramatically as of the second half of 2010. The growth of fraud has been caused by the application of the reverse charge regulation for metal waste and the establishing of additional requirements for fuel handlers which has made swindlers to move over to the gold market. Application of reverse value added tax will eliminate the opportunity to deduct, that is, to reclaim from the state, value added tax in case of transactions between persons liable to value added tax. The obligation to pay value added tax will only arise in the “last link” of the supply chain, upon sale to the final consumer. In the opinion of the Ministry of Finance, upon application of reverse charge mechanism, the volume of gold fraud will decrease by approximately 6.8 euro per year. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
On the motion of the Finance Committee, the first reading of the Bill on Amendments to the Investment Funds Act and Other Associated Acts (152 SE), initiated by the Government, was concluded. The amendments enable also employers to establish their own pension funds. The employer’s pension fund is a voluntary pension fund to which only the employer specified in the rules of this pension fund can make contributions for its employees, public servants and members of the management or controlling body. In addition, the Bill enables to manage investment funds complying with uniform standards (UCITS) on a cross-border basis in the European Union (i.e. in a situation where the management company is located in one Member State and the investment fund in another); establishes the legal basis for merging a UCITS with the UCITS of another management company, and for cross-border mergers of UCITS, and enables to create new fund structures, that is, “master-feeder structures” according to which the assets of one UCITS (the feeder-fund) can be invested in another UCITS (master-find) as a whole or in a large part. The Bill was sent to the second reading.
The Riigikogu Press Service
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