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Yerevan Market Traders Protest Against 'Tax Terror'

Traders protest in front of parliament in Yerevan on November 14.
Traders protest in front of parliament in Yerevan on November 14.

YEREVAN -- Several dozen market traders have rallied outside parliament in Yerevan to protest what some of them described as “terror” tactics used by Armenia's tax administration.

The demonstrators gathered at the National Assembly building on November 14 to complain about what they called the State Revenue Committee’s (SRC) harsh actions against them, including frequent inspections and fines.

The traders, who are mainly selling clothing at markets in the capital, were paying fixed monthly taxes until recently, when the SRC informed them that their taxes will now be based on their businesses’ turnover, citing Armenia’s new Tax Code.

The government agency says that, for that reason, it has introduced standard accounting rules and other extra paperwork for the traders.

One woman selling clothes imported from Turkey complained that tax inspectors have been harassing her in the past three weeks, accusing her of understating her business turnover.

“My sales are low now. People are leaving the country. Only the rich and the poor remain here. We are among the poor today," said the woman, who declined to give her name for fear of reprisals.

"They want us to leave our country, but we will not go. We will stay and fight,” she said.

Mikayel Melkumian, a deputy parliament speaker from the opposition Tsarukian alliance, told the protesting crowd that he had raised the issue before all four factions in the legislature.

“We again stressed that the State Revenue Committee continues its tax terror,” Melkumian said. “Our job as members of parliament and my job as a deputy speaker is not to shut down businesses.”

“Instead of opening new jobs, the government wants the few existing ones to be closed,” he added.

It was the second protest held by market traders within two weeks. On October 31, they also gathered outside the National Assembly building to demand changes to the Tax Code and a reduction in administrative paperwork.

SRC chief Vartan Harutiunian dismissed the demands, accusing the protesters of trying to evade taxes.

Harutiunian also claimed that traders rejected an SRC offer to provide them with free accounting services.