Babiš’s electronic tills nearly ringing
The government has managed to push its bill for the electronic, centralised registration of businesses’ cash sales [EET] through parliament’s lower chamber. In response, the right-leaning opposition has prepared the ground for a constitutional complaint.
The man behind the bill, finance minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), hails it as a victory for everyone averse to tax evasion. But the pposition described the passing of the legislation as a dark day for both the country’s selfemployed traders and parliamentary democracy. The Civic Democrats [ODS] and TOP 09 intend to file their complaint with the constitutional court once the bill makes it through the upper chamber and is signed by the president.
Following no less than 236 days of resistance put up by opposition MPs, the ruling coalition at last saw the EET bill – which will lead to finance officials keeping centrallyheld, digitally stored data on cash sales of both goods and services – move through the lower chamber on its journey into law.
It was approved thanks to the votes of MPs from ANO, the Social Democrats [ČSSD] and the Christian Democrats [KDU-ČSL], as well as from several MPs from Dawn – National Coalition and three unaffiliated MPs. Of the 145 MPs present for the vote, 105 voted for and three against. The Communist MPs abstained, while the ODS, TOP 09 and Mayors MPs walked out of the chamber in protest.
The time available for the final debate was squeezed in advance, but nevertheless there was still no shortage of dramatic moments. TOP 09 leader – and ex-finance minister – Miroslav Kalousek even tried, and failed, to have the speaker of the house Jan Hamáček (ČSSD) removed from office, claiming a breach of the act on parliamentary procedure and the misleading of the lower chamber: “The way I see it, there has been no mistake whatsoever, there was an intention,” said Kalousek. His observation was specifically directed at how 14 of his party colleagues had been deprived of an opportunity to lodge earlier prepared amendments to the bill.
“The tradition of Czech parliamentary democracy has been violated and the law has been violated,” added ODS leader Petr Fiala, in his criticism of the proceedings that got the bill through.The Communist MPs were not exactly happy with the approach taken by the coalition either and decided to show it by abstaining from the vote. The objections to EET most frequently cited by the opposition are that the collected sales data would be open to misuse while the costs of complying with the law could prove too much for many traders.
Finance minister Babiš and prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) triumphantly shook hands after the vote. The PM subsequently tweeted: “Approved at last! EET will shrink the grey economy and eliminate tax evasion.”