Mandatory cash registers for entrepreneurs, Poland
In 2010, the Polish Ministry of Finance introduced new regulations, to decrease the number of entrepreneurs exempt from registering sales electronically and hence widen the general use of electronic cash registers. While the instant response by taxpayers has not been overwhelming, the initiative is still considered a step in the right direction, as it increases the level of equality before law.
The ongoing crisis of public finances in Poland, marked by alarming levels of national budget deficit and public debt, prompted the government to seek new sources of revenue for the state, which translated into a more aggressive approach in tax policy. Along with increasing tax rates (e.g. raising the VAT rate from 22 % to 23%), the Ministry of Finance (Ministerstwo Finansów, MF) also decided to curb the extent of tax exemptions. Until recently, there were numerous groups of business entities which enjoyed the right not to register their sales as they occur, thus not having to report revenues to fiscal authorities and instead paying their income tax in the form of a lump sum. These groups of entrepreneurs included lawyers and doctors (widely perceived by the public opinion as having above-average financial status). Not surprisingly, being allowed not to register all sales might be an incentive not to report all revenues to the fiscal authorities.
The main objective of the new law was to increase fiscal efficiency of the state. The decision to widen the category of entrepreneurs obliged them to use a cash register, thus to duly register and report each sale made, and ultimately pay VAT in a proper amount. This was expected to curb tax evasion practices and to increase the volume of tax revenue collected by the state. Further, the decision was intended to end controversies surrounding the unequal treatment of various categories of taxpayers.
The Ordinance of the Minister of Finance Regarding Exempts from the Obligation to Record Sales Using Cash Registers was signed on 26 July 2010, but due to an extended vacatio legis period entered into force on 1 May 2011. The new regulation drastically trimmed down the list of exemptions from the general rule, imposing the obligation to maintain sales records with electronic cash registers by such groups of entrepreneurs as lawyers and physicians. In particular, the new regulations bind the following types of entrepreneurs: attorneys at law, solicitors, tax advisors, physicians running private practices, funeral homes, translators, human resources and recruiting services, bookkeepers, poll agencies etc.
The estimated number of taxpayers who would have to acquire cash registers amounted to 150,000.
Ministry of Finance (Ministerstwo Finansów, MF)
Outcome of evaluations: lessons and conclusions
Achievement of objectives
The immediate effect of the new regulation was weaker then expected, as only a fraction (no more than 30%) of the estimated number of entrepreneurs bound by the law notified the tax administration of having acquired a cash register within a month since the law had come into force.
Obstacles and problems
Major obstacles and problems in application of the measure result from the resistance of tax payers bound with the new obligations. There are numerous techniques suitable in avoiding recording sales. For example, physicians may reportedly use cash registers only during official opening hours of the practice (even though, patients may also be served after hours), deliberately not take cash registers for home visits, claiming the cash register is out of order, or negotiate the price with the patient who is offered to pay less with no ‘paperwork’ involved.
The introduction of the new regulation was generally well received by the public, who saw it as a step towards bringing more equality before the law for all entrepreneurs. Despite a slower than expected pace in acquisition of cash registers, the state has continued to increase the fiscal pressure on individual entrepreneurs. From 1 January 2012 the threshold of annual sales which allows for paying income tax (CIT) in the form of a defined lump sum was lowered from PLN 40,000 to 20,000.
During the month following the new regulations coming into force some 40,000 business entities acquired electronic cash registers and notified the fiscal administration of the fact. In other words, between 25% and 30% of those bound by the new regulations complied instantly. The exact figure of those who followed in the consecutive months is, however, unknown.
Regardless of the tangible effects expressed in numerical terms, the government’s move has been a step in the direction of bringing more equality to the treatment of the entrepreneurs. In a way, the practice is very much transferable to other countries seeking to increase transparency of tax policy. However, a question arises as to how to secure effective enforcement of the law, so that the tax revenue will actually increase as the result of introducing regulations of this type.
Ministry of Finance (Ministerstwo Finansów, MF)
The privilege of not having to use cash registers enjoyed by selected groups of entrepreneurs had long been disputed as evidence for uneven standards applied by the state to the business community, so that extending the obligation of using cash registers to those who had not been bound by such requirement was well received by the public. On the other hand, it might be expected that various tax evasion practices will emerge (most likely already put into action), as some taxpayers try to conceal at least a portion of the revenues from the fiscal authorities. Combating such practices is, however, not a question of devising new regulations but simply a matter of a better law enforcement.
‘Doctor and lawyers will aid the taxman’ [Lekarze i prawnicy wspomogą fiskusa], bankier.pl, accessed on 9 August 2012.
The Ordinance of the Minister of Finance of 26 July 2010 Regarding Exempts from the Obligation to Record Sales Using Cash Registers, [Rozporządzenie Ministra Finansów z dnia 26 lipca 2010 r. w sprawie zwolnień z obowiązku prowadzenia ewidencji przy zastosowaniu kas rejestrujących] Ministry of Finance (Ministerstwo Finansów, MF)
Social Diagnosis 2009 (2010), Subjective quality and objective conditions of life in Poland [Diagnoza społeczna 2009. Warunki i jakość życia Polaków], University for Finance and Management/ the Council for Social Monitoring (Wyższa Szkoła Finansów i Zarządzania/Rada Monitoringu Społecznego), Warsaw.
Unregistered employment in Poland in 2010 (2011), [Praca nierejstrowana w Polsce w 2010 r.], Central Statistical Office (Główny Urząd Statystyczny, GUS), Warsaw.
Jan Czarzasty, The Institute of Public Affairs and Warsaw School of Economics