MOSCOW, May 13 (RAPSI) - As many as 46% of Russian businesses operate in the shadow economy as a result of high taxes, according to business lobby group leader Boris Titov, who was appointed last summer to safeguard the rights of Russian and foreign entrepreneurs.

According to a poll conducted by Titov's Delovaya Rossiya NGO, around 44% of business people consider the current taxes inappropriately high.

"Businesses are unable to pay such taxes," he said at a parliamentary hearing on the country's taxation guidelines for 2014-2016. The ombudsman proposed comparing taxes in Russia with those of its counterparts in the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

"[Value added tax] is 18% in Russia and 12% in Kazakhstan. Income tax is 13% and 10%, and profit tax is 20% and 15%, respectively," he said. "Social taxes are 30% in Russia and 11% in Kazakhstan."

Titov warned that, given the free movement of services, products and people and the open borders in the Customs Union, businesses are likely to prefer to invest in Russia's closest neighbors.

According to the law approved in April 2013, the business ombudsman is responsible for the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of the business community, monitoring the federal and regional authorities for their compliance with the rights of businesspeople, promoting the development of public institutions aimed at protecting the rights of businesses and bolster cooperation with them, and also contributing to the development and the implementation of government policy in this area.

As ombudsman, Titov is empowered to issue binding requests to suspend the operation of non-regulatory acts issued by local authorities and send substantiated proposals to the president to revoke government resolutions and instructions.

He can also appeal commercial court rulings, and initiate the establishment of situation centers at government agencies for hearing pubic complaints and also protect the rights and the legitimate interests of Russian business people abroad.