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The Warsaw Voice » Law » February 4, 2009
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LAW IN BRIEF
February 4, 2009 By L.¯.    
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More Transparency on Environment
Environmental assessments affecting complex projects will soon be made by special regional directors in what may be a two-stage process. An initial assessment will be made while the project is in the planning phase and will, for example, determine routes for roads, power lines, pipelines so that do not adversely impact valuable natural areas. Where necessary, a second assessment will be made once a detailed design has been completed. The need for two decisions is not expected to lengthen waiting times.

The regulations also grant more rights to environmental organizations. These will more frequently be given the right to be a party to proceedings. Among other things, they will be entitled to appeal decisions to which they were not a party.

The new regulations make it possible for just about anyone to obtain environmental information from administrative agencies. Agencies will have a month to provide requested information, or two months for more complex matters, and may charge fees for some types of information.


EU Clamps Down on VAT Fraud
Ministers from EU member states have decided to force businesses to lodge more frequent VAT statements in a bid to combat fraud. VAT statements have to be lodged with tax authorities every three to six months. But as of next year, they will have to be sent every month, or two months in the case of businesses with a quarterly sales of 50,000 euros or less.

VAT fraud costs the EU billions of euros in lost revenue every year. The most widespread type of fraud is known as "carousel fraud." This involves legitimately importing goods free of VAT from elsewhere in the EU, charging VAT on their sale and pocketing the proceeds without paying tax.


GMO Ban Under Fire
A 2006 Polish law prohibiting the manufacture and use of genetically modified animal feed is in breach of both EU law and the principle of economic freedom, according to the Polish Commissioner for Civil Rights. A total ban on using animal feed containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was supposed to have come into effect Aug. 12, 2008, but the lower house of parliament has extended this to the end of 2012.

The Commissioner for Civil Rights was asked to intervene by a group of animal breeders and food producers. They claimed that many branches of the food industry will be unprofitable once the ban becomes effective and that it breaches EU law. They also say that genetically modified animal feed is cheaper and better than its alternatives and that genetically modified crops are more resistant to disease and can be more efficiently grown and harvested.

The Commissioner for Civil Rights agreed and held that EU law allows the sale of genetically modified feed.


Streamlining for Local Gov't
Local government authorities will soon find it quicker and simpler to pay non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for minor projects, under a draft amendment to the law on public benefit activity and volunteering recently adopted by the government.

Local government authorities will be able to transfer up to zl.10,000 for projects whose completion is to take less than 30 days, without putting them out to tender. No organization will be able to receive more than zl.20,000 a year and no local government will be able to spend more than 10 percent of its annual purchases of goods and services from NGOs this way.

The draft also introduces a raft of local initiatives. Residents will be able to form associations to carry out projects vital to their communities. Road construction, water supply and sewage disposal, environmental protection, education and security are all included. And local government will be able to set up long-term joint programs with NGOs.


Online Tax Returns Simplified
The Finance Ministry plans to encourage taxpayers to submit returns online by making them simpler to lodge from March. The first step will be to streamline the procedures involved in lodging online returns and abolish stamp duty on granting proxies to sign them. Draft amendments to the taxation law and the law on stamp duty have been put up for inter-ministerial review. Companies and individuals intending to lodge online returns will be required to notify the tax office online of their intention. These simpler procedures will not do away with the need for secure e-signatures. The ministry wants to see the proposed changes become effective March 1.
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