A business delegation from Iran will visit Estonia on 3 June. Within the framework of the visit, the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be organising a business seminar, which welcomes anyone interested in Iranian market. The seminar will give an overview of the relations between Estonia and Iran, the current situation and opportunities in Iran after the sanctions related to the Iran nuclear program were lifted, and the potential for technological and knowledge-based cooperation. After the seminar, you are welcome to meet the members of the delegation.
The Chamber is turning to the Constitutional Committee of the Riigikogu to address the question of the draft amendment act of the Equal Treatment Act. The draft act aims to eliminate unequal treatment of different social groups (e.g. disabled persons, the elderly) with respect to the availability of goods and services offered to the public. However, the explanatory memorandum does not contain analysis on the economic impact of this change. The analysis consists of only two sentences and the influence of the change on businesses has not been assessed at all. However, without a proper impact analysis it would not be possible to ensure good quality of legislative drafting.
The meeting of the Economic Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu discussed the new Public Procurement Act. Mait Palts, head of the Chamber who participated in the meeting said that the discussions were quite hopeful: “The most important aim is to improve the quality of our system of procurements and increase transparency of the entire process. The ideas of introducing the e-procurements and establishing a procurements centre are steps in the right direction. We must definitely focus on harmonising the practice and improving the quality of procurements in local municipalities. However, at the moment, there are many problems in the draft act, which should be address. Among them situations where a company with tax arrears or deletion warning can participate in the procurement proceedings and submit a bid. Such situation should not be possible in our business environment.”
Entry into force of the amendments to the Aliens Act are planned for autumn. The amendments take into account several proposals made by the Chamber. These amendments will allow aliens working or being engaged in business with much less bureaucracy.
The European Commission has developed amendments for changing the regulation concerning posted employees. Among other things, the aim of the changes is to introduce the principle that posted employees receive a salary that is equal to the salary of the employees of the country of destination of the posting. The Chamber does not support the proposal and we sent our respective opinion to the Ministry. We find that the planned changes may undermine honest competition and make using posted employees much more inconvenient, which contrary to the aim of making the functioning of the common market more efficient, damage it instead.
More than a week ago we returned from the visit to Iran with our 12-member business delegation. The majority of the entrepreneurs who participated in the visit confirmed that they are planning to return and actively develop the business contacts they made there. Before the visit we had many uncertainties and prejudices about Iran, but the experience received was very positive and I dare to say that the visit as a whole was more productive than expected.
The regular general meeting of the members of the Chamber will take place on 6 May 2016 at 14:00 at the Chamber (Toom-Kooli 17, Tallinn).
The Chamber sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs its positions regarding the legislation concerning working and rest time. We emphasised that in relation to the increase in the use of new formats of work (shared work time, shared workplace, remote working, voucher-based work etc.) it is necessary to establish possibilities for their use in Estonian legislation. Based on feedback received from our members we highlighted that instead of detailed regulation, some aspects of employment relations could be determined by an agreement between the employee and employer. Among other issues we made a proposal to allow employees and employers to agree on workload in a certain range.
The Tax and Customs Board shall offer to foreign undertakings a simplified application form for registration as a person liable to value-added tax which is accessible both in English and in Russian and which makes application for a value-added tax identification number simpler.
The Police and Border Guard Board invites employers to information days on 3 and 11 May to discuss issues related employment of aliens in Estonia. We welcome representatives of small and large companies who are considering employing aliens or who already have foreign citizens already working in their company. The Police and Border Guard Board is represented by practitioners and experts of the area.
The Chamber of Commerce has made a proposal to give entrepreneurs an opportunity to choose immediately before the submission of the annual report, if the report is submitted to the Commercial Register immediately or later. If an entrepreneur wishes to submit the report to the register later, the entrepreneur must choose the date for submission of the report.
Mait Palts and Toomas Luman met with the Finance Committee of the Riigikogu in order to discuss the improvement of Estonian business climate and tax environment.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications sent out a notice regarding the zero-bureaucracy project. Together with entrepreneurs, the Chamber submitted 62 proposals to the state, for 49 of which there is a commitment to put them into action.
Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomes companies to participate in the contact visit to Linköping and Norrköping, Sweden, which takes place on 25 and 26 May.
During its regular meeting, the Board of the Chamber discussed what should be done to boost the development of our entrepreneurship. The Minister of Public Administration Arto Aas gave an overview of the current state of the administration and state reform. The biggest expectation of the Board is that a successful state reform be carried out in order to ensure that our country be managed in a skilful and goal-oriented manner. The Board emphasised the need to manage the image of the state in a systematic manner and introducing Estonia in the world through only one or two sectors was considered dangerous. Entrepreneurs continue to be worried about the situation of the labour force, and not only in the IT sector but more broadly in services as well as industry. In the opinion of entrepreneurs, taking on new markets needs to be supported by the state, and it is necessary to introduce Estonia more strongly and boradly.
The Chamber sent to the Ministry of the Interior proposals that would help to increase competitiveness of Estonia and increase investments. Mait Palts, Director General of the Chamber said that the current Aliens Act is very bureaucratic from the point of view of favouring entrepreneurship and investments, and needs updating. “The restrictions established some twenty years ago are not justified anymore. The security rules must remain in force, but useless and artificial restrictions should be abolished. The proposals we have made will help saving on the expenses of businesses as well as the state and make Estonia more attractive for investments and enterprising people,” added Palts.
At the end of the year 2015, we sent to the Ministry of Finance the Chamber’s opinion regarding the amendments to the Accounting Act, which concern introduction of e-invoices. According to the amendments, the companies required to maintain accounting are obliged to submit only e-invoices to the state from 1 January 2017, and from already 1 June 2016, the public sector institutions cannot refuse to accept e-invoices.
By the end of the year 2015 Estonia had over 7,000 e-residents. Several changes are planned to significantly simplify applying for e-residency with the aim of increasing the number of persons who would like to connect their lives with Estonia, either for business or other purposes. One of such changes – the possibility to open a bank account without having to be physically present at the bank – concerns not only e-residents but also everyone else.
The Chamber of Commerce carried out the annual economic survey among its members – the survey is a part of the annual survey of Eurochambres. Approximately 60,000 European entrepreneurs participated in the survey, among them 232 Estonian entrepreneurs. The majority of our entrepreneurs predict increased turnovers, larger number of employees and increased investments.
The Chamber sent to the Ministry of Finance 59 proposals for the zero bureaucracy project. Mait Palts summarised the feedback collected from entrepreneurs as follows: “Today the biggest problem is that entrepreneurs are required to submit the same data to different authorities and sometimes even multiple times – in essence it means that the data are duplicated, but entrepreneurs waste pointless time and resources on submitting the same data to different authorities. Although the ban on duplicating as a principle has been in force for already years, its implementation in reality is poor. The current situation requires more clarity and transparency. We should rely on the principle that public authorities do not ask the same data from entrepreneurs that the entrepreneurs have already sent to another public authority. There must be a change in the thinking that data would be searched from the databases that already exist and not asked from entrepreneurs. It is also important that we would start gradually moving towards not having to submit any data at all, but that the data would move automatically between systems.”
A number of proposals made by the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will enter into force on 1 January. Many of these amendments will decrease administrative burden and costs for entrepreneurs. For example, small companies will be exempt from the obligation to audit packaging reports, the tax free limit of foreign business trip daily allowances will be increased to 50 euros, and the audit and inspection limits will be almost twice as high. Other important changes involve increasing of the minimum wage to 430 euros and amendments to the Accounting Act, which will simplify the rules for preparing annual reports for small companies.