Posted 22 марта 2023,, 09:15

Published 22 марта 2023,, 09:15

Modified 22 марта 2023,, 09:54

Updated 22 марта 2023,, 09:54

A time to troll for infogypsies? What do criminal cases against popular bloggers mean?

A time to troll for infogypsies? What do criminal cases against popular bloggers mean?

22 марта 2023, 09:15
Two criminal cases have already been initiated against popular bloggers: Lerchek and Alexandra Mitroshina. They are accused of non-payment of taxes for hundreds of millions of rubles. Whether this trend will turn into a campaign and what may ordinary bloggers expect – "Novye Izvestia" trued to figure it out.

Alexander Dybin

With a difference of several days, the security forces filed claims against two major bloggers.

So in early March, blogger Lerchek (Valeria Chekalina) and her husband Artyom were detained. They are charged with tax evasion. According to investigators, in 2020-2022, bloggers exceeded the limit of the simplified taxation system of 150 million rubles. For the sale of fitness marathons, the family received significantly more than the limit. According to the Investigative Committee, bloggers managed to evade taxes in the amount of more than 300 million rubles.

Similar claims were made to Alexandra Mitroshina, who, according to investigators, did not pay 120 million for the sale of educational courses.

"Not wanting to switch to the general taxation system and pay VAT and personal income tax provided for by this tax regime, she used affiliated and controlled sole proprietors. Thus, Alexandra Mitroshina evaded paying taxes in excess of 120 million rubles", - the investigative committee said.

What do these criminal cases mean and can they grow into a campaign against bloggers? The chairman of the Council of the National Association of Bloggers, Maria Terentyeva-Galitsky, in an interview with a correspondent of Novye Izvestia, noted that claims against bloggers are no different from claims against any other business. The only difference is that bloggers have a large audience, which is why such attention is focused on these cases.

"A blogger, like any other entrepreneur, should be legalized," says Maria Terentyeva-Galitsky. - There is no such choice: I want to pay taxes, but I don't want to. If you are earning income, you have several options to work with. If this income is not very large, you can become self-employed. It's a very simple story. Most bloggers choose the IP format based on a simplified taxation system. This is the most common way. It has restrictions on the amount of annual turnover. And the claims that are now being made against a number of major bloggers are just related to the fact that the guys exceeded the limit. We don't know if that's the case. There is no court decision yet. But this situation with such incomes is rather an exception to the rule. The number of bloggers who have such a large income is not so great. For the majority, it is enough to have sole proprietors on a simplified taxation system".

The chairman of the Union of lawyers-bloggers at the Association of Lawyers of Russia, Deputy head of the Department of Kutafin University (MSLA) Yelena Grin agrees that law-abiding bloggers have nothing to fear of.

The security forces are not doing anything new or extraordinary:

"The initiation of criminal cases on the fact of non-payment of taxes cannot be attributed to the trend. The compositions of these crimes are not new, they have been fixed in the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation since 2003, and in 2017 they were revised. Also, the control of social networks by law enforcement agencies cannot be attributed to innovations. It is no secret that monitoring of social networks, special complexes, databases is used as part of operational search activities. Information is requested, including from the tax authorities," she says. - Information about the blogger's income can be requested from the tax authority, as well as information about business entities with which a particular blogger is associated. For example, a blogger splits a business into several companies for the purpose of tax savings. Information about a person's participation in the management bodies of enterprises is publicly available, these data can be obtained in the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, anyone can do this. However, it is not so easy to track the movement of money in accounts, even a request from law enforcement agencies is not enough for this, since such information is protected by bank secrecy. Certificates on transactions and accounts are provided only on the basis of a court decision".


The blogosphere has long been legalized


4 years ago, during a direct line with the President, a blogger from Chelyabinsk, Natalia Krasnova, asked when blogging would become a profession, so that there would be an experience and a pension. After a very short time, the state began to talk to bloggers "like adults", demanding payment of taxes and work in the legal field.

Experts interviewed by Novye Izvestia note that bloggers have not been faced with the issue of legalization or the establishment of rules of the game in this area for a long time. Everything is already defined and it is enough just to follow the laws.

"In fact, this is not a new story," says Maria Terentyeva-Galitsky. - The topic of income legalization arose about five years ago and all this has already passed. When we realized that leadership was turning into a market segment, that influence marketing was beginning to be monetized in Russia. Then the wave of legalization began. Five years ago, it was possible to talk about the legalization of bloggers from a legal point of view, about the legalization of entrepreneurship. What is happening now is rather an echo of the pandemic and the ban on inspections. These are standard routine checks. Periodically, the tax service comes to any business and checks. Another possible reason for the interest in bloggers is the transition to a single tax account. Previously, it was divided into different services, now all cash flows are combined into a single one. And we see a single balance. And it allows you to see exceeding the limits, if there are any. I don't think this is a story of some kind of conscious persecution of bloggers or it's a story of some kind of specialized verification of bloggers. I think it's just planned things, the tax service looked at the income and decided that there is a violation".

At the same time, the expert does not exclude that high-profile cases against Lerchek and Mitroshina may provoke some wave of such investigations, but this should not turn into a trend:


"Since there is some precedent, we saw that this is what is happening, it will entail more targeted checks. It is possible that they will want to check someone. The tax service has the right to do this. It just gets such publicity because people are popular with a huge audience. And the sums should not be surprised. They also have a lot of products, it's not out of thin air, money taken. When a person has a million audience and part of that audience pays money. It can be difficult to imagine for a person who works for hire. But if we compare it with a medium-sized business, for example, then there is nothing surprising. Even a simple simplified version in the sole proprietor has a limit of 150 million. It's not a figure taken out of my head. And a certain average amount", - the expert says.

It is difficult to calculate the blogger market


It turned out to be quite difficult to determine how much money is spinning in the blogosphere. There are too many different variations of earnings and too many participants in the process. Advertisers pay part of the money for direct advertising from bloggers. This part of the market can be evaluated in a year, with the help of advertising labeling. But there is another part of the iceberg. Some bloggers sell not only advertising, but also some information products: courses, marathons, and some cosmetics or clothing under their own brand. It is difficult to divide where the income from blogging is here, and where it is from other activities. There is also income from donations, when the audience transfers funds on an ongoing basis or on a one-time basis. Is it a payment for content or a gift?


How do bloggers work now? Should I be afraid of inspections?

"To legally receive income, it is enough only to act within the legal framework. First of all, formalize your activities, keep accounting records and do not try to deceive the tax service. At the same time, it does not matter what the blogger does specifically: receives income from advertising or sells information products, - says Yelena Grin, chairman of the Union of bloggers at the Association of Lawyers of Russia, - As for donations, then the purpose of donation should be analyzed in each case. If the donation qualifies as a gift, there is no counter-provision, then the tax is not paid. However, it must be remembered that donations are only possible for the benefit of individuals or social organizations. It is forbidden to give anything to commercial companies. It happens that donates disguise payment for services or goods. Accordingly, in this case it is necessary to pay the tax".

According to the chairman of the Council of the National Association of Bloggers Maria Terentyeva-Galitsky, many bloggers who do not receive income, all these difficulties do not concern at all.

"If you are a blogger who does not receive income, then you do not need any of this, you do not advertise and do not provide services. You live quietly, write content", - she says. - As soon as you receive some money from the audience, you must, first of all, give the person a check that paid you for your service. Secondly, you must report to the tax service. You connect a cash register or a payment acceptance service. People pay for your services through the website or under a contract, they pay for advertising on the invoice. These are all accounting statements, all receipts, all payments are automatically sent to the tax service. You have a reporting period for paying taxes, paying social contributions. It's just like any other business. There is no special tax system for bloggers. There is not even a legal form – a blogger".

Are marathons now illegal?

"Bloggers selling information products cannot be directly attributed to the risk group if they act within the legal framework. So, a blogger can sell marathons, while formalizing his activities: register in the required status, keep strict records, pay taxes in good faith and on time. In this case, there is nothing to be afraid of, regardless of the amount of income. The quality of the services offered can be assessed only by analyzing a specific product: study reviews, see who leaves them, ask questions to participants who have previously purchased the product", - Yelena Grin believes.Criminal bloggers




Lerchek and Alexandra Mitroshina are not the first popular bloggers who turned out to be involved in criminal cases.

So in 2016, Ruslan Sokolovsky, a blogger from Yekaterinburg, was convicted of insulting the feelings of believers. The case was based on the statements of a young man, which he made in his video, filmed in the church on blood in Yekaterinburg. The blogger "caught Pokemon" in the temple with the help of the game Pokemon Go. As a result of the high-profile trial, he was sentenced to 3.5 years probation, and after the complaint, the term was reduced to 2 years and 3 months.

In 2021, blogger Yuri Khovansky was detained, he was accused of justifying terrorism because of a song about hostage-taking during the musical "Nord-Ost". Khovansky spent several months in jail, and after a while the case was terminated due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. After the scandal, the blogger left Russia.

One of the most recent cases is the plot around blogger Nikolay Lebedev (Nekoglay). The young man was deported from the country as a citizen of Moldova after a scandalous video with a parody of a Russian military man who managed to throw a grenade dropped from a drone away from himself. Against the background of this scandal, the head of the Safe Internet League, Yekaterina Mizulina, announced the initiation of a criminal case against the blogger for "libel".