By Emil Danielyan
In a move reflecting his administration’s ongoing crackdown on tax evasion, President Serzh Sarkisian merged the Armenian government’s tax and customs services into a single agency on Wednesday.
A statement by his office gave no reasons for the merger of the State Tax Service (STS) and the State Customs Committee, which has been anticipated ever since Sarkisian took office last spring. Shortly after his April 9 inauguration he harshly criticized both agencies, accusing them of corruption and harassment of businesses.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian (no relation) has repeatedly declared improved tax administration a top government priority, saying that it is key to reducing broader government corruption. Earlier this month his cabinet approved a three-year plan of actions designed to tackle the problem. The Armenian parliament began debating on Tuesday a controversial package of legal amendments stemming from that plan.
In a separate decree, President Sarkisian sacked STS chief Vahram Barseghian and appointed the head of the SCC, Gagik Khachatrian, to run the new agency called the State Revenue Committee.
Barseghian is believed to be a figure close to former President Robert Kocharian, having managed the latter’s Oversight Service in the past.