Armenian Tax Chief Replaced

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian dismissed the head of the Armenian government’s main tax collection agency and replaced him by one of his senior aides on Monday.
A statement by Kocharian’s office did not explain why Felix Tsolakian, head of the State Tax Service, was relieved of his duties. It said only that he will now serve as a presidential adviser.
Tsolakian’s replacement, Vahram Barseghian, has until now run Kocharian’s Oversight Service tasked with combating financial irregularities and other corrupt practices within various-level government bodies.
Incidentally, Tsolakian headed the service before being appointed as STS chief four years ago. The 55-year-old had previously held senior positions in the Soviet KGB and its Armenian successor agency, the National Security Service.
Armenia’s tax revenues have grown substantially since 2003, even if they still account for a very modest share of Gross Domestic Product. They rose by 24 percent to 162 billion drams ($480 million) during the first five months of this year, helping the government post a rare budget surplus.
It is not clear if Tsolakian’s dismissal has any connection with the recent launch of a government plan of legislative and administrative measures aimed at significantly raising the tax revenues in the next few years. The three-year plan calls for the abolition of controversial tax breaks enjoyed by local and foreign firms, improved tax administration, and a tougher crackdown on widespread tax evasion.

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