May 13, 2014

Public Presentation on Armenian Tax Perception Survey

By Diana Hovakimyan

On May 7th, 2014, the USAID-funded Tax Reform Project (TRP) team held a public presentation on Armenian Tax Perception Survey 2013, which was designed and conducted by Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC)-Armenia in November-December 2013. More than 1,440 households and 400 business entities and individual entrepreneurs, selected through multi-stage clusterized sampling, were interviewed in all regions of the Republic of Armenia via face-to-face interviews with standardized questionnaire.


The main goals of survey were to identify attitudes of general public and business community toward the tax authorities, facilitate an improved public-private discourse, help develop effective and efficient tax policies and tax administration, and raise awareness of tax policy and tax administration related issues in the Republic of Armenia. Public presentation of the CRRC-Armenia implemented survey results was an opportunity for the Government of Armenia, private sector organizations, advocacy groups, business associations, as well as tax professionals and other interested stakeholders to get information on public perceptions about tax related issues, and discuss the main findings of the survey. 


In his opening remarks Mr. Janusz Szyrmer, Chief of Party of the USAID Tax Reform Project, emphasized the significance of such initiative. Mr. Gagik Khachatryan, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Armenia, mentioned that the survey results could serve as an important guide in developing the tax code. Director of USAID/Armenia Karen Hilliard noted that there was a need to conduct the survey annually in order to benchmark the progress of the Armenian tax system over time. According to Dr. Hilliard, the implemented survey will play a key role in promoting dialogue between the state and private sector. In addition, Mr. Jean-Michel Happi, the World Bank Country Manager for Armenia recognized the importance of the survey in improving the tax system in Armenia. 



Afterwards, CRRC-Armenia Program Coordinator Lusine Zakaryan presented the main findings of the survey. According to the findings, 67% of household respondents receive information about taxes from the TV and radio, whereas 48% of businesses receive the same information from tax bodies.



Fifty percent of households and 52% of businesses agreed that if paying taxes were easy and less-time consuming, people would be more willing to pay them. 




Other findings indicated that one of the main reasons for avoiding or evading tax payments for the majority of households (58%) and businesses (56%) were high tax rates. 



Interestingly, 44% of all surveyed businesses think that businesses pay bribes to tax/customs authorities, and one of the reasons (36%) for this is to pay less taxes.

 


At the end, Mr. Armen Alaverdyan, Deputy Head of the State Revenue Committee mentioned that there was a need to make a comparative study with other transition countries to have more complex and consolidated approach in the long run.

Other information on TRP can be accessed through CRRC-Armenia website.






May 4, 2014

Caucasus Barometer 2013: Hopes for the Better Future

By Valeria Sargsyan

On April 18, at Ani Plaza Hotel, recently released results of the Caucasus Barometer 2013, an annual cross-border survey in the South Caucasus region, were presented to the public. Over 80 participants of the presentation were welcomed by the Yerevan State University vice-rector Dr. Ruben Markosyan, World Bank (WB) External Affairs Officer Vigen Sargsyan, and CRRC-Armenia Research Director Artak Ayunts. 



Dr. Markosyan emphasized the need for such high-quality research in the region, as the one CRRC-Armenia provides, and expressed deep satisfaction with a possibility for researchers, analysts, and all interested people to compare data on different issues across the countries in the region. Mr. Sargsyan, in his turn, underlined the importance of CRRC-Armenia research and expressed regret on not fully using that invaluable data. He also expressed gratification to the CRRC culture to openly share the primary datasets, which goes on line with the WB open-access approach.

CRRC-Armenia CEO Heghine Manasyan began her presentation with extending gratitude over EPF-Armenia, Yerevan State University, National Statistical Service of Armenia, Carnegie Corporation, and CRRC-Armenia staff for many years of fruitful, productive and efficient cooperation. She presented findings based on new questions regarding awareness of regional conflicts, Armenia's joining the Eurasian Customs Union, and human rights and social media usage questions, as well as traditionally covered population's attitudes on economic, social, political and other vital issues in the South Caucasus.


As in previous years, unemployment and poverty are issues worrying people most in Armenia (45% and 16%) and in Georgia (54% and 10%), while Azerbaijanis tend to mention regional conflicts (38%) followed by unemployment (25%) as the most important issues being faced by their country.

Attitudes towards country's membership in the Eurasian Economic Community-Customs Union (EEC-CU) and European Union (EU) across countries were diverse as well: 65% of Georgians support the country’s membership in EU, while only about 41% of Armenians and 34% of Azerbaijanis do so. Instead, 55% of respondents in Armenia support its membership in the (EEC-CU), against 32% of Georgians. Not surprising then 83% of Armenians considering Russia as the main friend of the country.


It is worth mentioning that 34% of Armenian thinks that the country is not a democracy, as opposed to 18% of Azerbaijanis and 11% of Georgians thinking the same way. Moreover, this figure has been growing during past 3 years in Armenia (28 and 27% in 2012 and in 2011 years respectively). Nevertheless, majority of people in all three countries think they have the right to openly say what they think:


As observed, people in South Caucasus countries are not well aware of the regional conflicts in their neighboring countries: around half of the Armenians and Azerbaijanis haven’t even heard about Georgian-Abkhaz conflict; however, 62% of Georgians said they have heard about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Moreover, the very fact that 35% of Azerbaijani people believe that this conflict could be solved by peaceful negotiation raises hopes for better future.

As part of the social capital and values fragment of the presentation,  Dr. Manasyan noted that 35% of Azerbaijanis tend to think that education is the most important factor for getting a good job (as opposed to 19% in Armenia and 28% in Georgia) and for well-being of the children: 41% against 28% both in Armenia and Georgia.

Still, people’s attitude towards economic future in Armenia leaves much to be desired yet: only 30% hope that financial situation of their children will be better off when they reach their age, with average score of 5.2 from 10 on perceived household economic rung.



As in previous years, Armenia shows higher figures for interest in emigration, either temporary (60%) or permanent (31%). And finally, Georgia brings up the rear with the traditionally highest level of happiness in the region: 7.0 from 10 against 6.6/6.7 in Armenia/Georgia.

The presentation, followed by question and answer session, was mainly attended by researchers, NGO and government representatives, policy analysts and other interested parties.



All the Caucasus Barometer related materials and documents are available on the CRRC-Armenia webpage.