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The Tax Administration ungroundedly refuses to provide information on control in media

The Tax Administration illegally refused to provide organization Transparency Serbia (member of Transparency International) with information on in which media and for how many days during 2015, 2016 and 2017 it has conducted inspection. Namely, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection ordered the Tax Administration to provide our organization with data on controls in companies that are founders or publishers of 10 media in Bor, finding that there is no legal basis for denying information. TS requested from the Tax Administration data on the conducted control in six other cities - Belgrade, Cacak, Kikinda, Loznica, Nis and Vranje.

We sought this information within a research aimed at determining whether the inspections are equally treating different media. In addition to the Tax Administration, Transparency Serbia requested data from the Inspectorate for Labor and the Directorate for Prevention, in charge of fire protection. The administration, within the Ministry of Interior, did not respond to the requests, the Republic Labor Inspectorate sent answers, while the Tax Administration first requested an additional 40 day period, since it was allegedly needed more time to collect the data, so that afterwards the decisions refused all requirements. As a reason it was stated that "too much data is required", but also that it is "data on taxpayers" that the Tax Administration can not submit on the basis of the Law on Tax Procedure and Tax Administration.

Transparency filed complaints for all seven decisions, and the appeal concerning the media in Bor is the first one the Commissioner resolved. We expect that the decision will be the same in other cases.

In the decision, the Commissioner found that the Tax Administration's claim regarding the protection of data on taxpayers was not maintained, since Transparency Serbia requested only data on whether controls were carried out and on which days, the Tax Administration could only provide the requested data, not violating the rights of controlled entities. It was also found that the Tax Administration did not present any evidence that "the request requires too much information for which the processing would be spent very long time."

The direct reason for this research is the suspicions of the bias of inspections, which appeared particularly concerning the controls in the "Juznim Vestima" and "Vranjskim". Transparency Serbia therefore wanted to determine on a wider sample the relationship between inspections and media in individual cities.

A multiple-month refusal by the Tax Administration to provide the requested information on controls, stating the obviously ill-founded grounds for denial, raises doubts about unequal treatment and possible misconduct. All requests and responses sent in the framework of the research on the relationship of inspection bodies to the media and their advertisers were published on the TS website, and the findings of the entire research will be presented by the end of November 2018.