The bill on introducing amendments to the Tax Code is actively discussed on the Internet.
In case the bill is adopted, the organizations providing legal services, including individual entrepreneurs (lawyers) will be required to pay 20% VAT, 18% profit tax instead of the current 5% turnover tax.
The package of amendments has been proposed by the RA Ministry of Finance.
Deputy Finance Minister Arman Poghosyan responded to the suggestion to exempt legal services from VAT in the following way: “If we exempt legal services of the value-added tax or set a low tax burden for them, everyone will make use of that tax burden, all the beneficiaries, including criminals. Now a question arises. Are we all going to subsidize those criminals?”
The words of the Deputy Minister can be viewed as a discriminatory approach towards those who have been in some way involved in criminal proceedings. According to him, there are criminals among these people, and there is neither sense nor obligation in providing legal assistance to them. It turns out that there is no need to protect or support those individuals, and on the contrary, the state funds must be increased at their expense.
However, the obligation to protect and provide legal assistance to any person is stipulated by the Constitution. In particular, Part 1 of Article 64 defines that everyone shall have right to legal assistance. In the cases prescribed by law, legal assistance shall be provided from public funds.
The right to receive legal assistance is also enshrined in international human-rights related treaties ratified by the Republic of Armenia, in particular, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and other international treaties.
The purpose of these norms is to ensure that everyone has the right to effective protection because the person is considered innocent until his guilt has been proven by a court decision that has entered into force.
Based on the aforementioned, we can state that every person has the right to appropriate legal assistance, and their right to legal assistance cannot be limited. Moreover, the state should take measures to ensure access to high-quality legal assistance, making those services accessible for all.
It should be noted that the adoption of the bill may lead to the increase in the cost of legal services, as well as the violation of the principle of independence of the lawyers’ community, taking into account the nature of administration in the value-added tax system, the scope of documentation and bureaucracy.