DEC 22, 2023
Putin approves inclusion of digital ruble within Russian tax code
Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his approval to a new law that incorporates the digital ruble into Russia’s tax code, marking a significant step in the country’s push towards digital currency adoption.
Authority to recover funds
The development was reported by Russian news outlet Telesputnik on Tuesday. The legislation introduces terms such as “digital ruble” and “digital ruble wallet” into the tax code. It outlines the legal framework for these digital assets. Notably, the law grants bailiffs and court-appointed individuals the authority to recover central bank digital currency (CBDC) funds from wallets in cases where taxpayers lack sufficient fiat in their bank accounts.
Moreover, the law empowers tax authorities to suspend transactions on digital ruble wallets and request documentation from platform operators to confirm fund withdrawals from a taxpayer’s account. In a move aimed at streamlining the process, confiscated digital coins can be transferred directly to the Russian Treasury.
This legislation, the second major CBDC-related law passed in 2023, signals Russia’s interest in fast-tracking the implementation of its digital ruble. Despite conflicting statements, the Ministry of Finance anticipates that all Russians will have the opportunity to use digital ruble wallets for payments by 2024. However, the Central Bank has indicated a potentially delayed national roll-out, stating it may not occur before 2025.
Key provisions outlined in the new law include defining the Central Bank’s role as the “operator of the digital ruble platform” and establishing liability procedures if the bank fails to fulfill these obligations. Additionally, the law addresses the taxation of transactions involving digital rubles, with exemptions for Value Added Tax (VAT) on account opening and holding.
Working around sanctions
As Russia edges closer to the digital ruble roll-out, the nation faces economic challenges due to ongoing U.S. and EU sanctions. Moscow views the CBDC as a strategic tool in international trade, aiming to leverage it to navigate economic restrictions. Government officials believe the digital ruble will play a crucial role in reducing costs and risks for domestic firms engaged in foreign trade.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), a five-member economic bloc including Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, is exploring the potential for cross-border CBDC functions. Belarus and Kazakhstan are also expediting their CBDC projects, with a focus on cross-border trading capabilities.
Earlier this month, a Russian politician could begin to use their respective CBDCs for bilateral trade deals as early as next year. Even before sanctions hit, both Russia and China had been working towards de-dollarization for some time.
Ongoing pilot program
The Central Bank is actively piloting the digital ruble in 11 Russian cities alongside 13 partner commercial banks. Earlier this month, the bank stated that “the pilot will continue at least until the end of 2024 and, if necessary, will be extended.” The Central Bank added that “only after the completion of the pilot will the digital ruble be introduced into mass circulation.”
A group of 16 banks is set to join the trial in the coming year. The finance ministry aims to utilize the digital ruble for government subsidies and welfare payments, with plans for implementation in 2024.