It all took place in 2000.
After yet another months-long inspection of VympelCom by a large team of tax inspectors, the company once again found itself in a state of disarray. As I recall, the audit went on for several months; first came the tax police and then, after a small break, the tax inspectorate. In terms of sheer manpower, these tax brigades often outnumbered our entire accounting department. During the course of one of these audits our subscriber list, among other things, was confiscated. In those years it did not yet number in the millions. The taxmen claimed they were looking for violations in connection with our non-commercial subscribers. We often gave phones and service to famous people gratis, and that created potential tax problems for them and for us (gifts were supposed to be taxed). I can even remember the name of one of our famous actors, whose problems resulting from our gift were of special interest to the auditors.
There were, of course, plenty of more serious tax problems, which we had to argue over frequently with various entities, never being sure whether they would accept our explanation.
Then we had the idea of asking the taxmen to establish an on-site tax office that could conduct constant, daily and hourly audits of our financial activity, something not unlike a long-familiar Soviet equivalent the in-house military reps.

I brought this idea to the Tax Minister, the charming Alexander Petrovich Pochinok (check out his smile in the photo, with the no less, and maybe more charming Nikolai Prianishnikov, vice-president and head of our commercial block in the background). translationAfter a brief outburst (But youll immediately pay off this whole tax office, head to toe), he fully approved our proposal. Moreover, the Minister suddenly recalled that either in Germany or in Finland, similar tax offices existed in every large enterprise where tax errors could cost society dearly.
Pochinok promised to issue all the necessary orders immediately. We parted as friends (I hope). Only one of the participants in these negotiations, a young finance manager, Volodya B., shook his head in doubt over my glee that we had struck such a constructive deal. A few days after that, Pochinok was removed from his post as Tax Minister. Some time later he and the new minister G.I. Bukayev (together!), in the most solemn of settings presented us with diplomas one to me personally, and one to the company for something like good tax discipline. I made an appointment to meet with the new Minister on the spot.
Gennady Ivanovich also turned out to be a good man. The idea received his ARDENT support. Moreover, the Minister told us that he had seen such tax offices either in Finland or in Germany, where they existed in every large enterprise whose tax errors could cost society dearly. He praised VympelCom and me personally for this VERY USEFUL initiative attempting the first tax experiment of its kind. Parting as friends, we gave the Minister a letter, which he read on the spot, and approved, promising us a green light. Here is the letter:
Once we left the Minister, the above mentioned young colleague expressed, to my surprise, his total lack of faith that the deal would go through.
Where would he (the Minister) find a bureaucrat suicidal enough to become a tax inspector with real responsibilities at one firm, when he could deal with absolute safety, propriety and profit to himself with dozens of firms without being responsible for anything?
I admonished this Volodya B. (who, I believe, is still working at VymeplCom) for epitomizing the unacceptable cynicism of todays youth and their shameful mistrust of a MINISTERs rock-solid promise.
A week passed, then another
Finally, a reply:
This response, which acknowledged that VympelCom did not owe any taxes, was a bit disingenuous. They left out that a court had just ruled in favor of our company in yet another arbitration hearing over tax claims.
Also, note the Soviet (that is, loutish) style of the letter. It was addressed to nobody, not even a Dear Mr
We wanted to send the letter back with a note from the head of our chancellery saying that we had been unable to locate anyone in the company who had written to a state councilor of the first rank, but decided just to let it go
Thus ended one of our attempts at establishing a working relationship with the bureaucracy.