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 Wednesday, May 22 2024 10:43
Naira Badalian

Proposed taxation of AAC attempt of political pressure - ex-official 

Proposed taxation of AAC attempt of political pressure - ex-official 

ArmInfo. The proposal to impose taxes on the Armenian Apostolic Church (AAC) amid protests from the  opposition movement "Tavush for the Name of the Motherland," led by Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan, is an attempt to put political pressure on the church with the unjustified use of economic mechanisms, the  former chairman of the State Revenue Committee of Armenia, David Ananyan, said. 

The day before, the Speaker of the Armenian Parliament, Alen  Simonyan, called for taxes on the church.  "Stop playing on our  emotions, history, and, already getting involved in politics, go  collecting money from the diaspora. Sell candles, Coca-Cola, wine,  have restaurants and not pay taxes," Simonyan said, speaking in  parliament. He also called for a review from a legal point of view of  what "makes a priest whose hands are kissed higher than an ordinary  businessman who pays taxes."

As David Ananyan pointed out, in international practice, the topic of  taxation of religious organizations, including churches, from time to  time becomes the subject of lively discussion both in public life and  in politics. And almost always such discussions occur during a  confrontation between the state and the church.

"From the highest pulpit of the country there was a proposal to tax  the Armenian Apostolic Church. This step can truly become historic,  because it claims to be the first and only one in history when, from  the number one political pulpit, without broad, deep and lengthy  public discussions, an almost groundless proposal to establish tax  obligations for the church is voiced," wrote Ananyan on social  networks.

He recalled that taxation is, in essence, a form of coercion imposed  and regulated by the state. But even regulatory enforcement can be  controversial and controversial, especially when it comes to  sensitive issues such as religion and belief, he noted.

"In the context of the Armenian Apostolic Church, which is clearly in  a period of "holy war", the proposal of taxation is clearly perceived  not as an economic, but as a political decision. This proposal is  clearly an attempt to put political pressure on the church with the  unjustified use of economic mechanisms.

Such ideas can increase tension between the state and the church and  cause widespread public discontent," the expert emphasized.

According to the former head of the State Revenue Committee, taxation  of churches requires a careful analysis of not only the financial  consequences for religious organizations, but also the broader  social, cultural and political consequences. This issue requires a  balance between the fiscal and exchequer needs of the state and  respect for religious traditions and beliefs.

"However, it is clear that the key aspect of the debate is not the  tax proposal itself, but the context in which the proposal is made.  One thing is absolutely clear - the initiator has no idea that in  times of social upheaval, general tension and conflicts, such  unreasonable and opportunistic proposals can further aggravate the  existing huge differences and unite the public and believers around  the church," summed up David Ananyan.

The office of the Mother See of Etchmiadzin has already responded to  Simonyan, indicating that the allegations that the church does not  pay taxes are, to put it mildly, a lie. Archbishop Bagrat Galstanyan  himself, who heads the Tavush for the Motherland movement, which  opposes unilateral concessions from Yerevan and Baku, noted that the  Church pays all taxes, with the exception of taxes related to ritual  attributes, which is established by law. According to him, at one  time, when after the collapse of the USSR problems arose in  regulating church-state relations, the church under the leadership of  His Holiness the Patriarch had the right, in exchange for the  repressions it suffered during the Soviet period, to receive  compensation from the state for all losses - in the form of property,  other material assets, and, in general, in the form of rights.

According to him, in post-Soviet countries, even in the former  socialist republics, the state today pays large sums to the church to  compensate for all the deprivations suffered during Soviet times.  "The only church is the Armenian Apostolic Church, which of its own  free will did not receive a penny, so as not to harm the state in any  way, carrying out its activities and taking care of the needs on its  own, without trying to be a burden for the state," he said.

Galstanyan said that compensation should be demanded from the  authorities.

The Armenian Apostolic Church is included in the list of 1000  taxpayers in Armenia. At the end of 2023, it paid out more than 435  million drams, taking 758th place in the list. And according to the  results of the first quarter of 2024 - over 147 million drams,  ranking in 488th place.  

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