”Taxation is the art of plucking a goose so that it does not scream.” Danylo Hetmantsev — about the petition for his resignation, Marxism, and the work of customs during the war — a long interview

Maria Zhartovska
Yevhen Spirin
”Taxation is the art of plucking a goose so that it does not scream.” Danylo Hetmantsev — about the petition for his resignation, Marxism, and the work of customs during the war — a long interview

Sergey Morgunov / Babel

On May 16, tens of thousands of Ukrainian businessmen and business associations addressed an open letter to President Volodymyr Zelensky. They called for the dismissal of Danylo Hetmantsev from the post of chairman of the parliamentary committee on finance, tax, and customs policy, as well as the removal of his post as the secretary in the National Council for Reconstruction of Ukraine. In a letter to Volodymyr Zelensky, the signatories call Hetmantsev "the personification of a regressive, populist socialist approach." Hetmantsev has been chairing the relevant parliamentary committee since August 2019. Business often criticizes him for his budget-centric stance and for his more meticulous attitude toward the state to tax collection. Hetmantsev himself says that he lobbies for white business, and everyone has to pay taxes. Zelensky did not personally respond to the businessmenʼs letter. On May 20, the head of the Presidentʼs Office, Andriy Yermak, and his deputy Rostyslav Shurma met with business associations. They agreed to prepare ideas and proposals for the stateʼs economic policy. Hetmantsev himself is likely to remain in office. According to Babelʼs interlocutor in the parliamentary leadership, he has no alternative, and in the committee, he is "fair". Hetmantsev met with Babel correspondent Masha Zhartovska and photographer Serhiy Morgunov in his office on the premises of Verkhovna Rada committees. He came for an interview immediately after the meeting of his committee, where they listened to the heads of the State Customs Service of Ukraine. Hetmantsev called customs a direction "the one he feels the shame for". During the interview, he explained that it is not the same with customs as it is right to collect taxes on business, why he is not a Marxist, and why it is not worth publicly punishing presenters who worked for oligarchic channels.

You had a committee meeting with the heads of oblast customs, where you called customs a direction for which "you feel the shame." It is a shame not only now, but in November last year, we had an interview with Pavlo Riabikin, who said that he had become a minister [of strategic industries] because he could not reform customs without money.

We have repeatedly said at the committee that customs is a shameful direction. But we [the parliament] do not appoint the leadership of the customs, we can only control its work. The last reset of the customs administration was also caused by this. What needs to be done at customs? The first is to introduce a very strict military dictatorship among officials and a hierarchy. Kill the clan. The second is to ensure the absence of law enforcement officers at customs posts, which are part of corrupt activities. The third is the introduction of common transit when there is a single information base with the EU and some other countries. The system has not been implemented, although the relevant law was adopted in 2019. We also need joint checkpoints with Western customs, now we are opening only one. What else? Customs rotation.

Both Maks Nefiodov and Pavel Riabikin spoke about staff renewal. And Demchenko spoke about the experiment with the involvement of students and participants in the anti-terrorist operation.

No experiments are required. We need political will, a rigid hierarchy, and certain clear actions that lead to a positive result. Although I personally propose to give the military the opportunity after the victory to be transferred to customs out of competition. Undoubtedly, after proper training.

How do you propose to reform customs without money, as Riabikin said?

Customs should give results, and business people should react and say: yes, indeed, it has become easier for us. It takes only two months [for these changes]. Then we will have the moral right to pay 30-40-50 thousand hryvnias by customs officers, instead of eight thousand hryvnias as now. And we have to give the customs officers a commitment that if there are changes [in their work], they will start receiving [salaries] in a new way from the third month. But while the customs is a mess at this level, you have no moral right to speak to society about raising wages.

During the committee meeting, you said that the head of customs [Vyacheslav Demchenko] was not there for unknown reasons, and you said earlier that the customs management needs to be reset — does this apply to the central management?

So. And the middle level.

That is, the next head of customs failed us?

I think [silence]. I agree with the public opinion that negatively evaluates the activities of customs at the moment.

You also mentioned that customs officers sell places in long queues for duty-free import of cars to Ukraine.

This is not what I mention, this is what people say.

Duty freeimport of cars, will remain it or not?

I am against it.

Sergey Morgunov / Babel


I believe that the war is not the time to buy long-term consumer goods, from washing machines to cars.

I believe that war is a period when we must consolidate resources for a single goal [victory]. Therefore, I am against this decision [on the abolition of customs duties] from a moral point of view. If we talk about the damage to the economy — itʼs not so much. Because in our country, unfortunately, there is no production of cars, so the import of cars does not harm domestic production. In contrast to the tax exemption of other imports. The decision to abolish customs duties and VAT was made in March to prevent shortages of consumer goods, and now we must abolish it because it harms Ukrainian producers. We have launched the Ukrainian economy, and started producing goods, and they are more expensive than imports. This is unacceptable.

As for cars, at the end of April, there was a post of Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Mustafa Nayem about hundreds of BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, which are imported duty-free, but most cars are still imported for the needs of the Armed Forces.

We must leave the army outside this rule at once, none of us, not even one of us, has considered the possibility of abolishing the humanitarian aid of cars for the army. This is not discussed.

When can [import] VAT and duties be refunded?

For all goods except cars as soon as possible. I believe that this decision must be made urgently.

You are in favor of raising the military contribution from 1.5% to 3%, and you have said before that there is a debate on this issue.

I do not know the subject of this discussion. We are at war, and the military contribution is going to the army. What should we discuss? Now we pay 1.5% and offer 3%, what should be the discussion here, letʼs discuss it with you?

As I understand it, the issue is that there is no control over the use of these funds.

We now have two items of expenditure: social and army. What other controls can there be besides what is prescribed in the budget code? The bill contains provisions that this money goes exclusively to the needs of the army. We have fixed this in the law so that there are no discussions.

Letʼs move on to your resignation petition. It already has thousands of signatories — how do you feel about its origin and why, in your opinion, it appeared?

I feel excellent about it. Why it arose is a question to its initiators, and my attitude is good. Can you imagine that in Russia? For example, regarding [Prime Minister Mikhail] Mishustin? I do not compare positions, I just do not know the names of their chairman of the tax committee. Can you imagine thousands of signatures being collected in Russia for his resignation? So, we live and work properly. Unlike them, we have a democracy. I think it is now the most developed in the world.

On the eve of the interview, our editor-in-chief Yevhen Spirin on Facebook, called on readers to ask you a question, one of themdo you wear red thread on your hand?

I wear.

Sergey Morgunov / Babel

Because so many people do not love you?

Iʼm not wearing it because of that. But yes, someone does not like me. Iʼm not $ 100.

One of the demands of the signatories is that you be ready to resign not only from the position of chairman not only of the chairman of the committee, but also from the National Council for Reconstruction of Ukraine from the effects of the war.

Voluntarily? No. And please tell me why? Explain to me.

There is information that you appointed Mykola Tyshchenko to this National Council, right?

It is not surprising that self-proclaimed Facebook professors can write after inventing it.

Regarding explanations. They are in the petition to the president. To summarize — the grounds of your logic are budget-centric and the desire to collect as many taxes.

There are no explanations, except for another batch of myths about me. I do not want to shock you, but any state wants to collect as many taxes as possible. Questions in the golden mean and balance. This balance, during our stay in power, we have succeeded, succeed, and hopefully will find. No one will argue with the thesis that we should raise more money for development, social standards, now for war, but do so without harming business development. What is proper taxation? It is the art of plucking a goose so that it does not scream.

Or milk the cow so that it does not die?

That it would give even more milk tomorrow. Thatʼs how you need to milk it.

The authors of the petition note that today 49% of enterprises are not working or are almost shut down. And here the question arises — who are you going to collect these taxes from?

Do you think that they should not be collected at all?

No, Iʼm trying to understand what youʼre proposing.

Here I am also trying to understand what I am proposing that goes against common sense. That is, you propose not to take taxes? Do you know that taxes are not taken from losses? Only from income or profit. And I believe that those who work and receive income and profit should pay taxes on this income. Budget-centric? Or what is it? If you think that taxes should not be paid in the war at all — letʼs submit a bill so that everyone really does not pay them, and we will not transfer the responsibility for payment to a white honest business. Otherwise, it is hypocrisy.

Many people consider you the personification of the Marxist, socialist approach.

This is what people who are unfamiliar with the concept of Marxism and what I do can say. I have specially selected a list of everything we decided. Iʼll give it to you. A list of things that ease administrative pressure on a business protects its interests. This could not be accepted for decades, Iʼm not exaggerating. The law on the capital market has been in force for six years, and the law on the authorized economic operator for three years. And so on. We in this Committee of Market Things have done more in 2.5 years than in its entire history of existence the day before. Thatʼs why Iʼm definitely not a Marxist [laughs].

If you are not a Marxist, then who are you?

I am categorically against tying someone to some isms. Liberalism, neo-Keynesianism, neoliberalism, solidarity — all theoretical currents. The only ism I accept is pragmatism. We must ensure the development of the economy at an increasing pace. To do this, we must take the best of what other countries have practiced in similar circumstances. If we talk about the war, then West Germany, Israel. Countries that have experienced similar tragedies in their history. Take the best, coordinate for the present and implement.

We donʼt have to experiment. We have been building socialism and communism for seventy years. And what did it lead to? We need normal pragmatism and common sense and all. I defend it. We can talk in detail about the details of the program that I implement and hanging templates and labels — itʼs all illiteracy. What we have been implementing in the committee for 2.5 years is not Ism but the realization of the basic principle of civilized society — the law is one for all or the rule of law in taxation: equal tax burden, equal economic conditions. This is not the case when a large corporation pays less because it has made a sweet change. Not that the whole industry works in the shadows and sells contraband, but does not want to introduce RRO. If we achieve this goal, then there may be a discussion about rates, about details, about taxes as a way to regulate the economy. And here, I am not against low rates. Moreover, in the future of Ukraine, we must defend our right to minimum rates within the EU. But the stimulating value of the rate cannot be discussed when half the economy is in the shadows. It is impossible to build any ism. You will not build communism, socialism or capitalism if you do not have a law for everyone. Therefore, what I do causes such aggression, such rejection — I try to impose the rule of law in tax relations. Nothing more. And this destroys the oligarchic-clan economy.

Sergey Morgunov / Babel

You yourself have admitted that you have procrastinated on many issues, especially those related to big business. And when you say that the law is the same for everyone, the question arises — why someone should pay and someone — no. This is, first of all, a question of justice.

So! And what am I doing here? You say: why long? Because there was resistance. Because the oligarchic clan system resists.

But the Servant of the People faction has deputies who are associated with various oligarchs.

Once upon a time. Now I do not know such. But despite fierce opposition, we have made many principled decisions against the oligarchs. Imagine how difficult it was to do.

But you are talking about the law — one for all, about the new architecture of relationships, but you are hostage to the old, at least in part.

No. Iʼm not. Personally, no. Because I break them. And the president — no! And I will say honestly, without undue modesty, who would be able to make these decisions in this place. Because of the amount of negativity I eat every day… I can recognize their [oligarchsʼ] media by handwriting. If someone orders a media against you, I will very easily tell you which of the oligarchs ordered it because their handwriting is repeated. In fact, it is a colossal pressure. And so, of course, it would be easier for me to agree with someone, something just to "earn" and be a favorite for everyone. But I donʼt want to, thatʼs not why I came here to spend my life. That is why there is not a word about corruption in that petition, only about Marxism.

Did the President react to the petition?

I did not talk to the president about this.

You offered to meet with the signatories, did this meeting take place?

Yes, there was a meeting with some. We found much more in common with them than they first thought. But he did not meet with some, they publicly stated that they did not want to meet.

Who exactly did you meet?

I do not want to name surnames, let them communicate with each other. I can admit my shortcomings — for working on global processes, for the war, I missed communication with the business. Some businessmen, and I mean businessmen, and not those activists and self-proclaimed experts who earn money from the exploitation of business problems, simply do not understand and do not know what I do and why. Probably thatʼs why there are so many signatures. But there are people who are well aware of the benefits of what I do but deliberately work against our team and me, they have participated in many media campaigns against me.

Can you name them?

I can, but I donʼt want it to be in the interview [say several names]. I do not want to advertise to people whom I consider not only illiterate and liars but simply humanly dishonest. There is no subject of dialogue with them. Because a person deliberately posts "facts" that do not correspond to reality at all and does not even check them. For example, among the latter, they make the allegation that the Russians are beating oil depots, and Hetmantsev introduced a law that equips bases with GPS systems to better guide the Russians. A person who can read could go into this law and see when it is passed? And it was approved during the last cadence. We amended this law, on the contrary, softened it for business. Because businesses complained that there were draconian measures. And itʼs true. At least you can check it? Youʼre bullshit, arenʼt you ashamed? I am constantly in touch with business people. This is actually my job. But my job is definitely not to meet the ambitions of a dozen illiterate pseudo-experts who earn concrete money by creating and operating business problems. I am deliberately lobbying white business. We are allies with him in building a new civilized Ukraine. If we do not support the tax-paying white business, the country will have no future.

Sergey Morgunov / Babel

You are talking about lobbying, but it is possible that no one will lobby here soon. After all, business is facing unprecedented challenges. There are areas that now do not earn at all.

Yes, my mother has worked in tourism all her life. It stopped. There are a number of industries where it is not possible to make money now. And this is the biggest problem — to retrain people for new jobs. We are currently working on this problem, and we do not have a definitive answer. But we definitely will.

If we talk about 7 million internally displaced persons, this is a huge employment problem, which raises questions in all related industries. Education, health, crime. And just for the survival of these people. They need to be given the opportunity to work, to occupy them. What do you need for this? We need to develop and support business. But the condition for helping business, developing it, must be one: to be white. You cannot build the economy of the new Ukraine on the rules we have lived by for 30 years. We have reached the poorest country in Europe in 30 years. Precisely because of corruption, tax evasion, and the oligarchic clan system.

There is a debatable questionwhether to release certain categories of men from Ukraine during martial law. For example, business owners, sailors who are actually unemployed now and may not be mobilized?

There is no answer to it. This is a question not only and not so much of the economy as of public consciousness, justice, and morality in wartime. Because there must be one law for all. Because if you make exceptions or any loopholes in the law, you are simply discrediting it and the general notion of justice. It has recently been discussed with business associations they are willing to pay any fines if the person does not return. I am not convinced that this would be right for a mobilized soldier in the trench. How do we explain to an IT conscript who has already been called up that he could leave? I know that both the Cabinet and the President are in this discussion. But we are not ready to give an answer yet.

Are you discussing the possibility of helping entrepreneurs, as it was, for example, at the beginning of the warin 6500 thousand UAH?

We are discussing. Help will definitely be. But I just want to remind you on the occasion that I submitted a bill that exempted private individuals from all taxes [during martial law]. That is, a socialist, a Marxist, a murderer of business, as he submitted a bill thereby exempting private individuals from all taxes.

I submitted a bill to abolish all tax fines during the war. He also submitted a bill to remove all inspections during the war. This is me, Hetmantsev, the author of all the bills, because my team and I brought the economy back to life.

A few days ago, you announced the return of inspections.

When the economy returned to life and business, exporters and VAT payers reasonably began to demand that the state return the system of VAT refunds and registration of tax invoices. I introduced the relevant bill, which was passed by the Verkhovna Rada last week, and restored the VAT refund system. But in-house inspections have also been restored to this VAT refund system. One does not work without the other.

What it is? These are on-site reporting checks. In addition, we resumed documentary checks only at the request of the payer or on currency control. And before that, the actual inspections were resumed. But the time of martial law and six months after. And there is no responsibility in principle if the business entity is not able to fulfill this or that obligation. And in all these decisions, the author was Hetmantsev. By the way, he is also the author of a 2 percent tax instead of VAT and income tax [except for customs benefits], which has already been transferred to more than 210,000 entrepreneurs. So this was Hetmantsev, a Marxist! The tax authorities have the right to read the declaration. And it is very important. A lot of businesses pay. Moreover, there are companies that pay in advance — ATB, I can still mention Khortytsia, I remember Bayadera. Even Philip Morris seems to be paying in advance.

And who does not pay?

For example, Auchan. What prevents him from submitting the declaration for 2021? Did it suffer from the war? We have a large financial and industrial group that owes the state a billion. Please tell me: how should a taxpayer whose son is fighting in Donbas react to a big fat company that has resources in energy that does not pay taxes? Tell me, does anyone have to deal with this?

Why, on the eve of the war, did you oppose an increase in defense spending?

Oh my God, itʼs so funny not to be so sad! This is a completely populist bill submitted by Petro Poroshenkoʼs party to simply take and allocate 50 billion to the army. It is not clear where to get it. This is how, for example, I want to go out and tell the camera how cool I am. And let me allocate 50 billion to Babel. Where to get them, where, how to get them? At the same time, a bill on allocating 20 billion to the Ministry of Defense and approved by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense was being considered at the same time.

Here, your opponents would tell you that you had the money for roads but not much for the army.

Expenditures on the army were constantly rising. This is obvious if you look at the numbers. Yes, we had "Great Construction" and it was the right decision. I do not know about the forecasts of aggression by the Russian Federation, but it is obvious that the roads were built without taking into account such aggression.

Did you believe in the possibility of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine?

No, I did not believe in the latter.

Sergey Morgunov / Babel

Letʼs end with the economy, what areas can earn now?

The ones, which products are in demand. The food industry, defense industry. Even a light industry that works for the army. Many of our companies have refocused on body armor. If we talk with you about the development of the economy and the leap of the economy during hostilities, it is an illusion. We must count on people to earn, provide for themselves, and pay at least the minimum taxes. This is still hot warfare.

If we talk about the post-war period, then I can share my vision. I am sure that the locomotive should be the defense-industrial complex, agricultural processing, IT, and energy.

And a little about the worldview. Earlier in your Telegram channel, you posted posts of other channelspro-Russian Klimenko-time, telegrams that were recommended to read: the Shariys, and so on, why did you do it? Is it closer to you?

I have fasted everything that coincides with my thoughts and with which I agree. Definitely did not recommend reading the Shariy couple. But letʼs take the latest scandal with a pool of journalists who, for some reason, are considered pro-Russian.

I can explain why.

If they were involved in propaganda, then there must be a criminal case. Prosecute them like Shariy. But hanging labels is like calling a socialist, a Marxist, a communist. This is all labeling and this is all slander, as the Minister of Information Policy Oleksandr Tkachenko rightly said.

And Max Buzhansky [Hetmantsev posted a post by Buzhansky on the Telegram channel, where he accuses the signatories of denunciations and creative envy of Natasha Vlashchenko]?

I know and often reread Max Buzhansky. In many ways, I agree with him, in some ways not. But I know that he is a much more patriot than these written patriots who consider themselves such and engage in harassment. I do not support labels and harassment. I know what it is because he is also the object of labels and travel.

Vlashchenko — the object of harassment?

Undoubtedly. By the way, I suffered much more from Natalia Vlashchenko than you. This, including on the broadcasts of her time, hung labels on the whole team and me, apparently fulfilling the orders of the owner of the TV channel. She took my soul away from me for the anti-oligarchic law. We stopped going to their channel when the harassment on their TV channels of our whole team started. But this is no reason to poison her. If she or someone else has said a heresy, letʼs evaluate what is said or done and obstruct it. But since the beginning of the war, I have not heard anything from her. I also donʼt remember before the war…

Why do they participate in the telethon at all, are they there to atone for their sins?

I do not know. These are well-known and successful journalists. Do you think that man has no right to atone for his sins? Does a person have the right to re-evaluate?

I do not believe in overestimation.

You are just still very young.

In 2013, we had a choiceto work for Forbes, which was bought by Serhiy Kurchenko, close to Yanukovych, or not to work. We chose the second option and went nowhere. So there is always a choice, and the values are the same at all times.

And why donʼt you obstruct the journalists, the editors, and the owner of the channel? And by the way, why only one channel — everyone sinned.

We are now talking about leading TV channels.

Why? Why donʼt you talk about those who are the primary source? Give lists. Give lists of editors to everyone where they are — the whole system worked. You do not break the system. And you just take a few — itʼs very important! — people who are faces.

We have an oligarchic clan system, part of which is the media. Perhaps, as part of this system, they should be responsible for some of the consequences. But these parts of the system are many, a huge number, and you and I take only a small part and begin to punish it publicly. It is wrong. I am against such flash mobs, public vices, punishments, and harassment. This should not be the case in the new Ukraine, just as the oligarchic clan system should not be.

Sergey Morgunov / Babel

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