Duty-Free Shops and Filling Stations to Be Closed Down

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Duty-Free Shops and Filling Stations to Be Closed Down

Duty-free shops and filling stations at exit roads on Bulgaria's land borders with non-EU countries will cease to operate after amendments to the Duty-Free Trade Act enter into force, the Government Information Service said on Wednesday.

Not more than three months afterwards, these facilities will be allowed to sell only goods with excise revenue stamps on them. No trade activity will be allowed in the areas after customs control points, BTA added.

These changes, approved by the Council of Ministers, correspond to a decision made by the ruling coalition at its enlarged meeting this past weekend.

Duty-free trade licenses for such facilities will be terminated according to the law from the date of cessation of activity. After the amendments enter into force, the orders for persons who were allowed to move their duty-free shops or filling stations from entrance points to exit roads on borders with non-EU countries will no longer have effect.

Duty-free sales will be allowed at exit points at international civil airports and ports, only to passengers traveling to non-EU countries.

Turnover at duty-free shops decreased in 2007 due to visa restrictions. The decrease was 40 per cent at Bulgaria's border with Macedonia, 33 per cent at the border with Serbia and 18 per cent at the border with Turkey, Radostin Genov, President of the Association of Duty-Free and Travel Retail Trade, told a news conference at the BTA National Press Club.

According to Genov, the closure of duty-free shops will entail a boom in contraband trade.

Duty-free trade operators and distributors are ready to continue to operate with excise and customs duty included in the prices of their goods, said representatives of Corecom-Princess AD, Sofcom AD and others. They argued that Bulgaria's economic development should not be determined by a political decree.

The Exchequer collected 30 million leva in taxes and fees from duty-free trading facilities in the last three years, a speaker said.

Duty-free shop owners will have to fire 1,000 persons when they close their shops. Another 2,500 persons working in auxiliary services will lose their jobs as well, said Corecom-Princess Executive Director Asen Asenov.

Genov noted that other countries have duty-free shops on external EU borders. Such shops are most numerous in Romania and least numerous in Bulgaria, he said.

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