The owners of small and medium-sized businesses operating in Armenia can now pay their taxes electronically using the Internet, the Finance Ministry announced on Friday as part of ongoing reforms of tax administration.
“Taxpayers will now be able to pay taxes without interrupting their work, through MasterCard and [internal Armenian] ArCa cards,” a senior ministry official, Zhirayr Titizian, told journalists.
Titizian explained that electronic payments will have to be made to the e-payments.am website which was launched by the Armenian government in April last year. The online platform has until now been used only for paying various state service fees as well administrative fines.
According to the Finance Ministry, at least 12,000 people used the website in the first half of this year, sharply up from more than 2,000 such payments carried out in April-December 2012. Titizian said the vast majority of users were car owners fined by the traffic police.
The introduction of the new taxation mechanism is part of broader government efforts to make tax collection in Armenia less arbitrary and at the same time boost budgetary revenues. International lending institutions have long been pressing the authorities in Yerevan to improve tax administration and the country’s overall business environment.
Improved tax collection has been a key declared priority of Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian’s cabinet. The introduction in January 2011 of electronic filing by businesses of financial reports to tax authorities is one of the reforms implemented by it in recent years.
The electronic statements became mandatory this year. The government says that minimizing physical contact between tax officials and businesspeople is reducing “corruption risks” in tax collection.
Titizian insisted that the online tax payments will serve the same purpose. “I think that corruption risks can decrease with the introduction of this system,” he said.
But Ara Galoyan, an economic analyst, sounded a note of caution. “The electronic system alone won’t root out corruption,” he said, adding that its introduction should also be accompanied by a greater civic oversight of tax collection.