By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian government collected a total of 106 billion drams ($182 million) in various taxes last year or 26 percent more than in 2001, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Yervand Zakharian, who heads the State Taxation Service, told RFE/RL that it was the highest year-on-year increase in tax revenues since Armenia’s independence. He said it was made possible by robust economic growth and a government crackdown on the huge informal sector of the economy.
The government’s overall fiscal revenues, which also include import duties, totaled 198 billion drams. Its 2002 budget projected 194 billion drams.
The authorities have pledged to boost their tax revenues further by 20 percent this year, hoping to increase modest public expenditures and at the same time reduce the budget deficit to 3.3 percent of the Gross of Domestic Product.
Last month the government pushed through the parliament a package of laws and legislative amendments aimed at complicating widespread tax evasion. Zakharian estimated that the shadow sector still accounts for at least 40 percent of economic activity in Armenia.
One of the approved measures allowed the government to create a special “tax police” that will be empowered to arrest and prosecute individuals suspected of tax evasion. The new police unit will operate inside Zakharian’s agency.