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In a lottery program that will be broadcast live on Public TV at 20:00 Prime Time today – Armenia is offering thousands of dollars in lottery prizes to consumers who take receipts for their purchases to try to tackle rampant tax evasion.
The initiative began on January 1, after authorities said the threat of prosecution had failed to encourage shopowners and market sellers to install cash registers and provide receipts.
Authorities estimate the grey economy accounts for 30-40 percent of economic activity in Armenia, a landlocked country of 3.2 million people, in transition since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Street sellers are everywhere and markets rarely have cash registers.
Under the new scheme, if customers buy from a trader with a cash register, they stand to win between 5,000 drams (11 pounds) and 500,000 drams. One lucky winner, if the eight-digit number on their receipt matches that drawn in the monthly lottery, will win 5 million drams ($16,000).
The monthly prize fund amounts to a maximum of $380,000. The government hopes the lottery will bring in an extra $17 million per year in tax receipts.
While the resistence is high among small traders and often even big shops and restaurants to install the cash machines and accurately supply receipts, it seems that housewives mostly enjoy the whole process of asking the receipts with the prospect of winning the big prize.
Pretty soon I’m sure, the lovely Armenian tradition to corrupt and spoil everything will surface, and we’ll find out, that the people involved in handing out lotteries have organized everything in a nice scheme to ensure money goes to their relatives, etc.
However, so far I quite like the idea and will definately tune in to Public TV at 8 this evening.