Revenue service halts business of classifieds website

The State Revenue Service (VID) has halted the business of the company behind the hugely popular ss.lv classifieds/personal ads website, Latvian Television reports. After VID revealed it had asked to shut down the website domain, the website now redirects its users to ss.com, what appears to be a hastily re-branded version of the previous site.

It appears however that the website itself remains operational.

At an August 3 press conference the tax service said that the company's business was frozen as it did not provide data over the people selling used cars on the website. 

The revenue service said it has found several schemes in which car sellers avoid paying taxes.

"I am talking about regular sales in large amounts," said the service's representative Sandra Kārkliņa-Ādmine, apparently suggesting that the info request targeted only select users of the service.  

One of the largest schemes the service has uncovered, she said, a group sold 700 used cars and without paying taxes thus defrauding the state of about €500,000. 

The service had asked ss.lv to provide the first and last name of the sellers, as well as their contact info and taxpayer number, said Kārkliņa-Ādmine. 

She said the company had not complied with repeat requests to hand over information after the service asked for it early this year.

The service has also asked Latvia's domain registrar to suspend the ss.lv website name. 

Earlier VID told the LNT commercial channel that many users of the website had complained about the company to the consumer rights watchdog. 

ss.lv is the largest classifieds website in Latvia that has dominated the niche for years. From selling cars and houses to used furniture, holiday rentals and obscure items of junk, it is one of the most popular websites in the country.

According to the Alexa web data company it ranks number four, between a porn site and Google's international search page. In terms of daily time spent on the site it actually ranks number one in the top ten websites.

Whereas people only spend an average of 7 minutes 54 seconds on Google search and a telling 4 minutes 34 seconds at the porn site per day, they spend more than 15 minutes at ss.lv, the data says.

The SIA Internets company behind ss.lv, founded in 1998, is owned by three individuals. Last year it posted a turnover of €1,259,877 and a hefty profit of €227,917.

(The story was updated on August 4 after it was discovered ss.lv now redirects its users to ss.com.)

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