Several dozen market traders again rallied outside the Armenian parliament on Tuesday to protest against what many of them described as ‘terror’ tactics used by the State Revenue Committee (SRC).
The traders mainly selling clothing at open-air or indoor markets in Yerevan have paid fixed monthly taxes until now. Citing Armenia’s new Tax Code, the SRC informed them recently that they will now be taxed under a different mechanism that will measure their business turnovers. For that purpose, the government agency has introduced standard accounting rules and other extra paperwork for them.
At the rally the demonstrators claimed that the SRC is taking harsh administrative actions against them, including frequent inspections, fines and other forms of ‘tax pressure’.
One woman selling clothes imported from Turkey complained that tax inspectors pay visits to her pavilion three days in a row at the end of every week, accusing her of understating her turnover.
“But my sales are low now. People leave the country, only the rich and the poor remain here. We are among the poor today. They want us to leave our country, but we will not go. We will stay and fight,” the woman said.
Another protesting trader said that they came to the National Assembly to urge the political parties to ensure that tax agencies deal with businesses fairly.
Deputy speaker of parliament Mikayel Melkumian, who represents the opposition Tsarukian alliance, came out to the traders and told them that he had raised their issue in front of all four factions in the legislature and that all were now aware of the problem. “We again stressed that the State Revenue Committee continues its tax terror,” the opposition parliamentarian said. “Our job as members of parliament and my job as a deputy speaker is not shutting down businesses that have been established over years of painstaking efforts… Instead of opening new jobs, the government wants the few existing ones to be closed as it uses terror.”
This is the second protest held by market traders within just two weeks. On October 31, they also gathered outside the National Assembly building demanding changes in the Tax Code and reduction of paperwork.
The SRC chief, Vartan Harutiunian, then dismissed these complaints, accusing the protesters of trying to evade taxes. Harutiunian claimed that traders had rejected SRC offers to provide them with free accounting services. “Everyone must pay taxes in a manner defined by the law,” he told reporters.