FYR Macedonia: Introduction of lawyer stamps
As of January 1 2013, the Law on Lawyer Stamps (effective as of July 2012) entered into force but is under review of the Constitutional Court following an avalanche of criticism from lawyers across the Republic. According to the law, FYR Macedonian lawyers who earn income in cash are now required to attach the lawyer stamps to each document/form they submit to the authorities in FYR Macedonia. The lawyer stamps are issued by the Public Revenue Office on the basis of an application from a lawyer. Subject to this law are all attorneys registered in the FYR Macedonian Bar Association and who provide legal services as physical persons-lawyers and not to those working within a legal entity – law firm. Such individual lawyers are now obliged to keep records of the used attorney's stamps and to submit the newly introduced E-AM form to the Public Revenue Office by January 31 of the following year.
The lawyer stamps are an instrument that is to be used for tracking the advance payment of personal income tax on the revenue realised by lawyers in cash. A widely criticised point of the new Law for Attorney Stamps is in fact that stamps will only be required for cash transactions where the fee for legal services is equal in amount to the minimum attorney fee for the particular service as set forward in the Tariff Guidebook for the Remuneration and Reimbursement of Expenses for Attorney services published in the Official Gazette. In cases where the fee is higher than the prescribed minimum rate the attorney is obliged to conclude a written services agreement with the client and the fee payment must be done through the banking system in FYR Macedonia (not in cash). In such cases, all legal documents submitted by lawyers to any of the state authorities must be accompanied with said legal services agreement.
According to the law, lawyers are now required to apply for lawyer stamps between the 1st and the 15th calendar day of each calendar quarter and thus obtain lawyer stamps for the next calendar quarter. With the application, lawyers are to also submit proof of advance payment of the personal income tax in amount of 10% of the value of the requested attorney stamps. Unused lawyer stamps can be used in the next tax periods. Failure to comply with the new Law is stipulated to result in a €2,500 ($3,200) to €5,000 penalty.
The law has faced strong criticism from individual lawyers; the main concern is that with the law, individual attorneys are now essentially required to prepay the personal income tax due from fees collected (before they even collect client fees). They have also expressed concern that the revenue office in this manner provides an unfair treatment among legal entities (law firms) and physical persons (individual lawyers). Lawyers have also objected to the fact that by providing copies of the service agreements with their clients along with each submission to courts they are essentially revealing the identity of their clients which is considered counter constitutional.
As mentioned above, the law is, as of March 6 2013, under review by the Constitutional Court of FYR Macedonia and as a result all provisions of the Law have been suspended pending the Court's final decision.
Elena Kostovska (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Eurofast Global, Skopje Office, FYR Macedonia
Tel: +389 2 2400225