The Tax Code Protesters’ Maidan
In my opinion, the Tax Code Protesters’ Maidan (or Maidan-2) was the most important event in Ukraine in 2010 in the field of human rights. For the first time since the Orange Revolution about one hundred thousands of people, outraged by the government’s actions, came out onto the main square of the capital to stand up for their freedom, rights and interests. Theyprotestedagainstthe draft TaxCode. They were supported in most regions of Ukraine.
Why is this human rights issue?
We can take the proposals regarding small businesses which have a simplified system for taxing their accounts. The draft code proposed a considerable reduction in the types of activity where the simplified system can be applied.
For those that remain on this list, the single tax rate would be several times higher, while double again for those carrying out business or providing services not only at the place they are registered.
This means that millions of people in Ukraine – programmers and other IT specialists, designers, artists, musicians, accountants, auditors, translators, lawyers, engineers, academics, small-scale producers and others will be deprived, through this Tax Code, of working freelance according to their wish and preference.
Yet it is those people engaging in diverse forms of small-scale business etc who make up the rich tapestry of the world. This means discriminating against people who are capable of acting independently, using their intelligence, their abilities and skills to earn a living.
Their choice will be seriously narrowed: either to join the grey economy (which is repugnant and, in fact, impossible) or become hired employees, and this when in Ukraine the relations between owners and employees are often similar to feudal relations (and for a free person there is nothing more terrible than to depend on the will of another person), or to emigrate.
We can forget about a market for free professions in Ukraine. Can the government seriously want people who independently earn a living for themselves and their family to leave the country?
The government constantly repeats statements about its wish to reform the economy; create new jobs’ foster the development of modern technologies and intellectual production. Yet with its draft Tax Code the government will achieve the opposite effect.
Furthermore the basis for taxation will collapse, and this is when the budget deficit now stands at 15%, and the government’s debt on social payments is a third of the budget.
What is the government counting on? What does it want? New serfdom? Is it really not clear that such attempts are today doomed?
On 18 November the Verkhovna Rada passed the Tax Code, and this meant a death sentence to free enterprise and economic independence in Ukraine. The proposed changes flagrantly violated the right of millions to work. People engaged in enterprise lost freedom of choice of type of work and conditions and were effectively not be able to freely choose their way of life. A person’s right to choose his or her own fate which covers the entire range of human rights and freedoms was significantly violated.
On 22 November the people started a mass action on Maidan Nezalezhnosti and won. The President and Prime Minister acceded to the demands of the business owners. The most offensive norms of the draft Tax Code were revoked by the Verkhovna Rada on 2 December. The simplified taxation system for small business owners remains for now in force.
Yet, is this state lasting? Where are the guarantees that the government will not hastily pass laws directed against the interests of ordinary Ukrainians for the benefit of oligarch clans? For example, taking away a certain part of the times of activities eligible for the simplified system? And gathering up potential organizers so that they don’t protest. Such thoughts arise when you look at the actions of the law enforcement bodies with regard to November’s Maidan Protest.
It had only just begun when on 23 November a criminal investigation was initiated over group infringement of public order (Article 293 of the Criminal Code). On 3 December a criminal case was initiated under Articles 28-I § 2 and 194-I § 1 of the Criminal Code (deliberate destruction or damage to others’ property, acted by group of persons with prior conspiracy). In this case, «deliberate destruction or damage to others’ property» means «damaging the marble tiles on the square when driving 132 metal stakes in to hold up tents».
It would seem that the authorities are planning to prosecute Maidan activists and are trying to scare people off, forcing them to shun protests. They are for the nth time shooting themselves in the foot, and seem incapable of grasping that methods of force against ones own people are doomed to crashing defeat.
 Prepared by Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of KHPG and Member of UHHRU Board.
 The protest on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square – translator’s note.