Hundreds of small traders again rallied outside the main government building in Yerevan on Thursday to protest again new taxation rules which they believe will spell ruin for them if they are enforced by the authorities.
At issue is a recently enacted government bill which lowered from 3.5 percent to just 1 percent the rate of a single turnover tax levied from small Armenian businesses with an annual revenue of up to 58 million drams ($140,000). It also requires those entities to provide tax authorities with documentary evidence of all of their transactions with larger suppliers.
In particular, they have to produce receipts for goods purchased by them from wholesale traders. Failure to do so would make them liable for hefty fines.
The protesters, who sell goods in markets in and outside Yerevan, are strongly objecting to this requirement, saying that large-scale importers often refuse to issue receipts and invoices. Their representatives pushed this argument at a meeting with Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian held during their first demonstration on Tuesday. Abrahamian sought to dispel their concerns, saying that the new rules are primarily aimed at eradicating tax evasion among the importers.
The traders again dismissed these assurances as they gathered outside Abrahamian’s office during a weekly session of the Armenian government. “He wants to catch big fish? Doesn’t he know who they are?” said one woman.
“This is a government attempt to trample small business underfoot,” claimed another protester. He said big business is not the main target of the government measure.
Abrahamian did not talk to the protesters chanting “Hovik, come down!” this time around. An official from his staff told them to present their demands to the premier in writing. The crowd responded angrily to that offer.
The traders said that they will rally outside the Armenian parliament on Monday. A pressure group representing small businesses said it plans to hold a bigger rally in Yerevan’s Liberty Square on Tuesday.