Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

‘How much without a receipt?’

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, Economy

The troika of international creditors has come and gone, but some things never change in this country, no matter how many memorandums it goes through.

From doctors to restaurateurs and undertakers, there are still many who won’t issue a receipt of payment for goods or services rendered if they think they can get away with it. What’s even worse is that citizens who were once conscientious about demanding a receipt have started to unashamedly use the magic phrase “How much without a receipt?” Even those who used to get angry when they heard such suggestions are losing heart, strengthening the impression that we have gone backward on this issue, perhaps to where we were before the crisis.

The truth is that under the present circumstances, tax evasion is becoming increasingly tempting as a means of survival. The government, meanwhile, doesn’t get it and doesn’t care. It doesn’t get it because it has no idea of how the market really works and doesn’t care because its main concern is to protect its supporters, who make sure by such underhand means that they stay below the taxable threshold.

Everyone else can choke on the painfully high taxes and social security contributions that Greeks are asked to pay. If you make the “mistake” of being conscientious about your obligations as a taxpayer or business, you run the risk of getting caught in the crosshairs of the auditing authorities, who always prefer to latch onto a patsy than target those who operate illegally. Businesses also have to compete with other companies and individuals who may not even have a legitimate tax identification number.

Efforts have been made to crack down on tax evasion, including promoting the use of credit and debit cards and modernizing the tax administration. Nevertheless, a very large part of the economy still operates in the shadows.

I don’t know if there is a solution. The primary surplus targets that have been set are outrageous, but our creditors don’t care. They are making the mistake of comparing the complaints here about high taxation with those they hear in their own countries. This is easy when you are looking at Greece from within an ivory tower and have no idea of the travails the average citizen is subjected to on a regular basis. All they want is for the numbers to add up and, most importantly, for Greece never to ask them for money again. In the meantime, we are stuck in what seems like a vicious cycle.

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