About 500 taxi drivers working as individual entrepreneurs in the northern provinces of Shirak and Lori converged in the country’s second largest city of Gyumri to call for “more acceptable offers” over the tax legislation regulating their sphere of activity. Earlier, the government had already responded to the taxi drivers’ demands by moderating their position on the amount of taxes they are due to pay annually.
But the drivers who gathered at a rally in Gyumri were mostly unimpressed by the government offer.
“The government has made some concessions and we appreciate it. But we also make some concessions on our part,” one taxi driver told RFE/RL. “Earlier, we offered to pay 2,500-3,000 drams ($6.5-8) a month to do our work. Now we have decided to make an effort and pay around 3,500-4,000 drams a month, which will amount to 48,000 drams (about $125) a year.”
“We just wanted to earn our daily bread,” said another disgruntled taxi driver.
Last month private taxi drivers in Gyumri addressed a complaint to the government and parliament as well as their city authorities demanding that the legislation regulating their sphere should be reviewed, otherwise threatening to “seek asylum in other countries”, including in neighboring Turkey.
The chief of the presidential surveillance service has met taxi drivers twice during this month to present an eight-point plan of mutual concessions under which taxi drivers will have to pay about 170,000 drams (about $450) a year.
At the rally in Gyumri on Thursday, the taxi drivers prepared a reply to this offer, finding that only three of all proposals are acceptable for them. They said they were ready to pay taxes only on a monthly basis and in the amount that is about three times as less as the one proposed by the government.
Armenia -- Gold traders rally near the Government building, 18 Feb, 2010
Meanwhile, workers of a gold trade market in capital Yerevan gathered near the government building demanding to see Prime Minister Tigran Sargsian and urging the government to put an end to what they described as “tax terror” being used against them.
“Every day you expect a taxman to come and cite an [inflated] figure. They’ve gone beyond all boundaries and indeed are depriving us of oxygen,” complained one trader approached by RFE/RL.
The workers of the Vagharsh & Sons gold trade market alleged unreasonably high taxes being imposed on them by taxmen and fines for doing trade in foreign currency, which they claim is provoked by the taxmen themselves. Besides, they protested an additional tax of 50,000 drams (about $130) a year set by the city authorities. They said they ran out of patience the previous day when tax service employees showed up at the market and started to make an inventory of their goods.
But the gold market traders are mainly concerned over a change order in which they pay taxes. In the past they used to pay a fixed tax. Beginning this year they are required to pay taxes in the amount of 2 percent of their business if they have invoices, otherwise they are required to pay an 11-percent tax. The traders selling mostly expensive items say their incomes are not high despite a high amount of trade in absolute terms.
"We cannot pay even 0.2 percent, let alone 2 percent," said one woman.
Representatives of the government promised to look into the matter and provide an answer on Friday. The protesters, many of whom do not expect the matter to be resolved in their favor, meanwhile, said they would gather again at the same venue the next day.