By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government has delayed the entry into force of a law extending the mandatory use of cash registers to virtually all businesses amid angry street protests by small traders affected by the measure.
Hundreds of them staged on Thursday yet another demonstration outside the government building in Yerevan where ministers gathered for a weekly cabinet session. Protest organizers were told by the chief of the government staff, Manuk Topuzian, that the measure, which was due to take effect on April 1, will not be enforced until next January.
It was approved by parliament late last year in the form of amendments to an Armenian law on cash registers. The devices, used for tracking and taxing retail sales, are presently mandatory for all shops and services firms occupying an area of at least 7 square meters.
The authorities decided to introduce them in all outdoor markets where many Armenians buy various consumer goods. Small traders earning a living there have until now paid only fixed monthly fees to market owners. Many of them fear that the use of cash registers would ruin their businesses.
“We already pay enough taxes and do not want to switch to cash registers,” said one woman. “They would plunge us into bankruptcy.”
Another man claimed that the government introduced the measure “because those who ride in jeeps want more money.” “I support four kids. Do they want me to steal ?” he said.
Some of the protesters were satisfied with Topuzian’s announcements, while others insisted that the measure be scrapped altogether.
The government says that cash registers are needed to reduce the huge scale of tax evasion in Armenia, arguing that outdoor markets account for a big share of retail sales in the country. But critics counter that the authorities should first of all target the wealthy and often government-connected owners of those markets who are believed to grossly underreport their earnings.