Hundreds of small-scale traders resumed their demonstrations in Yerevan on Monday, demanding that the government again delay the enforcement of new taxation rules which they believe spell trouble for their businesses.
At issue are recent changes in an Armenian law on turnover tax, which is levied from businesses with annual sales of up to 58 million drams ($125,000). The latter pay no other taxes.
The amended law, which took effect on October 1, lowered from 3.5 percent to 1 percent the turnover tax rate. However, it obligated the small business owners to provide tax authorities with documentary evidence of their wholesale purchases made from larger firms or face heavy fines.
The traders say that they cannot comply with this new requirements meant to complicate tax evasion because their suppliers usually refuse to issue them with receipts and invoices. Hundreds of them held a series of demonstrations outside Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian’s office in September and October. The protests forced the government to effectively freeze until February 1 the controversial measure criticized by the Armenian opposition.
With only one week remaining until the end of that reprieve, several hundred traders from Yerevan and other parts of the country again gathered outside the main government building in the Armenian capital. They demanded that the government suspend the law in question or repeal it altogether.
“I want to say on behalf of everyone that none of us agrees with the law,” said one woman operating a small shop in a Yerevan shopping mall.
“We won’t be able to show tax authorities contracts on purchases of goods,” said another, male protester.
The angry crowd also demanded that Abrahamian come out of the building and talk to them. An official from his staff, Aleksandr Ghazarian, said the prime minister is only ready to discuss the matter with up to a dozen representatives of the traders mostly selling goods in retail markets.
The protesters rejected the offer, saying that Abrahamian must address all of them. They pledged to again rally on the same spot on Tuesday.