Workers and owners of a number of companies involved in different sectors held protests on Monday against a planned reform of the tax legislation that they claim will hit their industries hard.
The separate protests at the central government office in Yerevan included workers of Hay Cola, an Armenian company producing carbonated drinks, and owners of pawnshops and currency exchange offices.
Hay Cola employees demanded the revision of planned tax code provisions, according to which excise taxes will be applied in relation to carbonated beverages containing sugar, flavor and odor additives.
According to the company’s director Tigran Hovsepian, if the changes are adopted, hundreds of workers will become unemployed amid falling sales.
Hovsepian said that the tax burden will only slightly affect companies working in the more expensive segment of the beverages market as prices for their products are expected to rise by only some 11-15 percent. “It is the sales in the ‘economy’ segment of the market that will definitely suffer terrible losses,” he claimed.
The reason for the protest by owners of pawnshops and currency exchange offices is the draft amendments proposed by the Central Bank in the law on state duties, which, if approved, will sharply raise the annual rate of fees paid in these areas.
Under the bill, in the case with pawnshops, the state duty will amount to 6 million drams (about $12,300) instead of the current 100,000 drams (over $200), and in the case with currency exchange offices their owners will pay 3 million drams instead of the current 50,000 drams.
“About 80 percent of today’s currency exchange points do not have sufficient profits to be able to pay that kind of fee. It makes this business unprofitable,” one of the demonstrators told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service.
While the protesters were waiting for Finance Minister Atom Janjughazian to come out and listen to their demands, Deputy Parliament Speaker Alen Simonian, who represents Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s Civil Contract Party, came to meet with the protesters.
“I cannot answer [your questions] now. But I promise that I will discuss all this with my colleagues. I will discuss it not only at the National Assembly, but also with representatives of my political team. I will tell them that there is such a problem,” Simonian said.