Lawyers protest against the VAT tax outside Egypt's top court in Cairo. Image Credit: Courtesy of Al Ahram newspaper

Cairo: Dozens of Egyptian lawyers gathered outside the country’s top court in central Cairo on Saturday, protesting the recently introduced value-added tax (VAT) in a rare protest since President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi took office more than two years ago.

The protesters chanted slogans against the VAT law that applies to legal offices.

Some of them chanted “Oh, government, lawyers are against the tax!” and “The VAT is void!”

They also raised placards, demanding the tax scrapped.

“We are not merchants in order to be subjected to this tax that is imposed only to collect money,” a lawyer named Mahmoud said.

After the demonstration, the protesters headed to the nearby Bar Association headquarters. Security forces deployed in the area did not interfere.

Street rallies are banned in Egypt without prior police approval.

A similar protest was reportedly held in Alexandria, Egypt’s second biggest city.

The independent Bar Association has called for an emergency meeting to discuss further escalation measures.

The independent union’s chairman Sameh Ashour has rejected the application of VAT tax to lawyers, saying it violates “technical and legal international standards”.

The controversial tax went into effect in Egypt last month, applying to a range of goods and services as part of reforms aimed at propping up the state’s finances and revitalizing the economy battered by the unrest that followed the 2011 uprising.

The government has said that a long list of basic commodities, including food and medicines, are exempted from the VAT.

However, market observers say that merchants took advantage of the tax to hike up prices of their goods.

In recent months, import-dependent Egypt has seen increases in prices of different items amid double-digit inflation.