On March 14, Inspectorate of the Russian Ministry of Taxes and Duties No. 4 for Moscow applied to the Moscow Arbitration Court with a bankruptcy lawsuit against Elena Furs LLC, the parent structure of the company of the same name that sells fur coats. The date of consideration of the application and the total amount of the debt are not indicated in the case card. But last year, Elena Furs tried in court to challenge the additional charge of 411 million rubles to her. taxes. No decision has yet been made on her claims. Inquiries to the company itself and to the Federal Tax Service remained unanswered.
Fur coats under the Elena Furs brand began to be produced in Russia in 1991. The goods are produced at the company’s own factories in Pyatigorsk and Moscow. Its network of stores includes 15 points in the capital and regions, according to the official website of Elena Furs. At the beginning of 2022, the company’s assets amount to 3.7 billion rubles, and the average monthly revenue of the network is 72.7 million rubles, according to court materials. The owner of the legal entity is Armenian citizen Levon Asatryan.
Lawyers interviewed by Vedomosti found it difficult to assess the prospects for a litigation between Elena Furs and the tax authorities. In one of the lawsuits, the company pointed out that “the amount of tax debt is hopeless to recover.” This means that the inspectorate, apparently, significantly delayed the timing of the tax audit, points out Alexander Erasov, partner at the IEF Legal. He explains that if the delay exceeds two years, then this fact may become the basis for the court to recognize the collection of additional amounts accrued based on the results of the audit as illegal. But the lawyer recalls that the practice of disputes over missed deadlines is very controversial: in similar situations, the courts can support both taxpayers and tax authorities. Sophia Volkova, a lawyer at the Asterisk law firm, agrees with this, saying that there are not so many positive decisions when companies were able to successfully challenge the actions of the tax authorities. Therefore, from her point of view, the bankruptcy suit of Elena Furs may well be satisfied.
The situation is aggravated by the fact that the assets of Elena Furs were previously managed by another legal entity, says one of the lawyers. It is also called Elena Furs LLC, but has a different registration address and a different owner – Ernest Baghdasaryan. Another Moscow tax inspectorate (No. 23) presented the same requirements to him and also filed a bankruptcy lawsuit against him. This application has been accepted for consideration, a meeting on it is scheduled for the end of March. The fact that Elena Furs has at least two companies makes the dispute around it similar to that of the shoe retailer Zenden, Erasov and Volkova say. In January of this year, this network lost an appeal against the tax authority, which charged it 600 million rubles. forfeited taxes for splitting up the business. The company itself stated that all individual entrepreneurs participating in the scheme for selling its products are independent franchisees. According to Yerasov, for a long time, regulatory authorities did not pay attention to such business models, which is why they turned out to be so common. Now the number of cases related to additional tax charges has really increased dramatically, Volkova confirms. She attributes this to the end of the moratoriums on bankruptcy, on-site inspections, etc., which were introduced during the coronavirus pandemic. Now, against this background, the tax authorities have a need to replenish budgets, the expert argues.
Mikhail Burmistrov, General Director of Infoline-analytics, notes that the company has shown almost no marketing activity in recent years. Whereas now the main sales in this segment have shifted to marketplaces, with which it is rather difficult to compete without an active advertising campaign, he argues. The analyst also notes a decrease in demand for fur products.