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On Germany, tax evasion, euro crisis

Club owner and accountant arrested over unpaid dues

A thought comes to mind: Where were the tax authorities all these years who allowed these individuals and corporations to continue in operation?
If a mom-and-pop store owed 10,000 euros in taxes, the “eforia” would have hauled them in and closed the business down a long time ago.
Has the government been complicit all along? And were friends of the powerful allowed to continue cheating on their taxes while the little guy was being chased down?
Have the authorities now, in the name of transparency and honest government, looked into the tax returns of the 300 MPs for discrepancies?
Lastly, what happens to those arrested? Do they stay locked up till they pay the balance they owe or are they released pending appeals or crossing the border to greener pastures?

Monica Lane
Florida

Why 300 and not 150 parliamentarians?


Given that both major Greek political parties and their dynasties have caused this crisis, the Greek people in their thousands should be in Syntagma Square on a daily basis demanding political reform. How does Greece justify 300 parliamentarians for a population of 10.7 million (2011 census), of whom 1 million are foreigners (legal and illegal).
Greece's immediate powerful neighbour Turkey, with a population of 73 million, has 550 parliamentarians. The USA, with a population of 308 million, has 435 in the House of Representatives and 100 senators.
The minimum parliamentary wage for a politician in Greece is 10,000 euros a month and yet they have the nerve to ask the middle and and working classes to make sacrifices.
The Greek people should be calling for the axing of 150 parliamentary jobs. Greek politicians should lead by example.

George Salamouras

Default the only option


Greece cannot heal its economy. It should default and withdraw. It can issue its own currency and exchange it with euros, pounds and dollars. Tourists will travel to beautiful Greece from all around the world. This will employ unemployed workers and spark a recovery.
The banks that lent money to the Greek government cannot be paid back. That money is lost. The Greek government cannot pay out in euros. It will have to rebuild its own currency.

Bennet Cecil

No way out


Why don't you people get it? We have to do this on our own. Make Germany pay restitution from 1940-45. Let's get out of the eurozone. It’ll take us 50 years back, but that is the price. You can't pay debt that big by borrowing money.
Put people to work, get rid of all illegal immigrants and with the Lord’s help we will be able to pull through. Bankruptcy is the answer -- then no one can bother you anymore about old debts.
Get rid all the old traitorous politicians and put in government good, honest God-fearing people and we are halfway there.
Let’s not wait, let’s do it now.
Make every thief pay back what they took.

Dennis Grammatikos

Re: Philip Andrews's pipe dream


You obviously have Greek blood running through your veins. Who the hell is going to help Greece when its citizens cannot help themselves? What does a 3,000-year-old history have to do with it? It is long forgotten by Greece's debtors and has no relevance in the 21st century. Reality is what it is all about today. My Greek blood tells me that if someone does not do something soon, Greece will implode.

Aristea Kampitsis

Buying time, but at what cost?


Sometimes I see the Greeks as big babies. Crying because they don't get their chocolate milk. Thailand went though its own austerity measures in the 1990s, no one cried. They tightened their belts, ate rats and turned the electricty off when the sun went down. The Greeks should be men and face it like a man instead of like a little crying girl. Come on. Grow up.

Elroy Huckelberry

False tax evasion criteria


Regarding your article on tax evasion, I would like to comment that many of the people, like the 10,000+ citizens who own yachts over 10 meters, are professional charter companies. Over the last four years many of these people have not been able to rent out their yachts and are going bankrupt.
My point is that just because honest people bought or invested in boats or cars in the past does not mean that they are hiding income or trying to avoid paying taxes.
It is incorrect to paint these people as tax cheats when most of them have not earned any money in the last four years. Most of the people who own yachts are desperately trying to sell their boats but they cannot do so in this bad economy.
The same goes for people with big houses or luxury cars. There is no market to sell their property or luxury items and they are stuck with them and in any case have to declare them on their tax declarations.
The whole system of «techmerio» is not correct. To show proof of income to purchase a luxury item is correct at the time of purchase. But to have to show the same income year after year in order to own something bought with your previous income is not correct. It is also not logical. Incomes vary year by year, especially during recession years such as the last four.

Angie Venizelos

Re: Ex-PM explains referendum idea


I am a Swede, living in Greece, regularly reading your newspaper. Having read the above article I can hardly breathe. Mr G. Papandreou and PASOK should be made aware of that to a large extent Greece’s problem with corruption and tax evasion started in the early 1980s when his father came to power.
In Sweden it is the centre-right that has brought the Swedish economy where it is today (public/debt to GDP at 35% and budget deficit/GDP at nil or even plus). The Swedish Conservative Minister of Finance is also the most successful of all in Europe.
Please persuade Mr G. Papandreou to retire to an island, so the people of Greece can get on with the job of salvaging their own country.

William Nisser

In praise of Karatzaferis

It seems Karatzaferis is showing he has no 'special interests' to please...
He is the only member of the tripartite government that appears to support Papademos and back him without him expecting anything blatantly in return, nor appearing so desperate. He seems to be more logical and less prone to all the advisors and 'deep party' crooks hampering and destroying this country. He is in charge of his own party, unlike ND/PASOK, who have become nothing more than cheap pimps.

Lionel Luthor

Sad, sad, sad, pimping the pimp


That's what Greek politics and its relationship with banks/business has become. Who the pimp is and who is being pimped is a matter of views. We the tax payer have supported these crooks’ lifestyles for decades on our tab!

Lionel Luthor

A thank-you note


Thank you, Philip Andrews, for your response to my letter and your revealing thoughts about how the Greek system functions. First of all I will say I would not be here if I didn't like Greek society, the people and atmosphere here. I love to be here, and I now feel that the Greeks are sad, sad about what has happened to their country, and insecure about what they themselves can do about it.
I admire the Greek men, they’re proud, and this is something that Norwegian men may have lost in the last 30-40 years of the feminism fight, maybe they have given up the struggle, the women in Norway seem to cope very well without men (ha ha).
I have been here only during the summers for the last 17 years, but now that I have retired I can be here in wintertime, and I know a couple of families so I can see how strong these family bonds are; we have lost this in my home country, and may be we shouldn't have.
I can see that the conflicts with other countries and occupation has resulted in what the nation is today, and the Greek does not have that strong feeling for country, but rather for family and how they can survive.
So we have things to learn from your society also, it is not only negative, but I think they should try to develop a bit further, to reorganize, be a bit more honest and adopt new systems to get the country into a better situation.

Ragnhild Irene Meijer
Paros

Re: Seven in 10 tax payers claim poverty in 2009


The Greek government should also take into consideration that many tax payers who have made purchases of houses, yachts and cars in the past no longer have the income that they did when they made those purchases.
They do not have the money to pay the absurb taxes due to the objective criteria of their tax declaration forms. They also do not have the ability to sell their assets (houses, yachts, cars) because of the economic recession.
The indifference of the government to the plight of its citizens will only lead to more people trying to not pay any taxes! This will also lead to fewer jobs and a greater recession.
The Greek government needs to wake up and open its markets to attract foreign investors of all sizes, not just the large multimillion investors.
They need to open up Greece as a destination for people who want to relocate and buy property here, especially retirees. This will regenerate the Greek real estate market. But they cannot do this when they are constantly increasing property taxes! Or when they levy taxes retrospectively for previous years; something which only leads to distrust amoung buyers and investors alike.

George Eliakopoulos

Germany


What astonishes me about all the recent comments about Germany is the fact that Greek and obviously also people from other “crisis” countries expect that Germany can solve the crisis just with a snap of its fingers.
As if Merkel just has to go down into a mysterious hidden basement to come up again with trillions of euros.
This basement as well as the money simply does not exist.
Greeks trust the government they themselves have voted into power not even one inch, but they obviously believe that Germans are more intelligent and voted in a government that will do the best for everyone in Europe.
It is for sure true that the current downward spiral of debts and shrinking economy is hitting Greece very hard and should remind every German of the period between the two world wars.
The biggest difference between now and then is the fact that Greece has received incredibly big amounts from EU funds in the past 30 years and has created nothing halfway sustainable from it.
Now Germany shall open all gates and break all rules that every country of the eurozone accepted in the first place.
It is not now that everyone should become German.
It was back in 2001 where everyone should have read the contracts and should have understood that it needed big efforts to fulfill the criteria.
Germany has undergone big and painful reforms in the past 10 years to be in the position where it is now and to try at least to fulfill the EU criteria. Greece has done nothing of that!
Explain to the 12 million people in Germany that are living on or under the poverty line why they should cover even more risks and financial burdens for a country that has failed so badly in the past 10 years?
These 12 million people are being punished and left suffering as well and they don´t understand why in a country that has four times more public workers per capita than Germany it is not possible to establish even the basic things of a working state.
The mistakes that led to the Greek crisis were mainly made in Greece but the crisis management is left very happily by the Greek elite to Germans or other external bodies so that they don´t get their own hands dirty.
It is not the Germans that are erasing 65 years of history!
It is the Greek elite that is still denying the mistakes made in the past 30 years and is using that “evil German” nonsense to put the focus everywhere but not on their own mistakes.

Sebastian Schroeder
Patra

The euro crisis has nothing to do with Germany


I’m sorry, but today’s crisis with the euro has nothing to do with Germany. I’m from Holland and we do have the same Protestant (financial) culture. As do countries like England, Scotland, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
About a hundred years ago, the German sociologist Max Weber described why countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal had not developed a capitalist system and culture. It would have been wise when our European politicians had understood and recognized these differences in the (financial) cultures and their dangers when introducing the euro. And when understanding and recognizing these dangers, the consequences of these dangers specially for non-Protestant countries and cultures. But they did not. And now we have this crisis. This cultural crisis.
OK, Germany is financially the most powerful European representative of this culture today, but that quality has nothing to do with this cultural crisis. For Greece, when wanting to stay in the eurozone, the only relevant issue is now ‘how to implement this Protestant culture in today’s Greek setting.’ At short notice. And when Greece does not want this Protestant culture, it had better leave the eurozone. Also at short notice.
I think this choice has to be the most relevant issue for the coming elections in Greece. Today this is the final issue for Greece. We had better focus on that.

Hans van der Schaaf

Re: Seven in 10 tax payers claim poverty in 2009


Oh, please, this is the mentality of the Greek people. Taxes are OK, but not for me! There is very little honesty in the public and private sector. And one wonders why Greece is in a hole and it wants other countries to bail it out. Taxes put on the electric bills is probably the only way the government can collect a pittance of what is owed and what is needed to keep on subsidizing many. What is this: 14 months of pay for 12 months of work? The Greeks need the extra two months because they haven't been paid enough as it is? Twelve paychecks for 12 months of work should be the norm.

Glorya Warner

Is there still money to buy time at any cost?


"Buying time but at what cost» is a very good article. For instance, in the Sunday issue one reads in an article that if a foreign country brings 1 billion to a Greek bank the EIB will match it tenfold, in another than Greece is now «playing hardball» (trying to to get 75% off its debt) and God knows what other Utopias, none of which are signed by a high EIB official or a serious representative of any meaningful body... The fact is that all these fantasies aside, the issue is not if Greece will get its next bailout tranche but what will happen in March when it has to refinance a much larger amount of debt! Again we are served with incredibly useless comments on the Papandreou legacy, practically the same comments dating from the time of Pericles instead of focus stories on investigations (eg on how Venizelos got it wrong by 3 billion). Pity! That's an interesting one... In the meantime one notices -- and some readers do see it just like me -- the fabulously unexpected mastery of the Turkish PM who has managed to put his country in its strongest ever strategic position (from Iran, to Syria and Egypt) since the golden days of the Ottoman Empire... Frankly, knowing what a statesman is, I’d rather learn from him!
His simple folks’ Islamic party originally developed a strong base by turning a poor Anatolia into a rich industrial base for the country and despite its clear Islamic stand, the PM seems to continue successfully at full speed on the path to regional economic and political potentially stabilising leadership. One should definitely hope so when Egypt’s future authorities are more and more likely not to be as moderate; the USA, Europe, and no one alike has actively supported anyone since the fall of Moubarak and his Junta. Why am I mentioning something that strays from the Greek crisis? Because it is a fact that with less and less liquidity from China, to Brazil, and the USA or Europe, new situations are developing which will soon require a lot of political attention from major world capitals and money: a very honest clear focus from all Greeks on at least their reality is immediately an absolute must! If the media doesn’t provide this focus none will. So one can only hope serious editorials will soon abound in the most read Greek magazine abroad... It acts, for many Europeans and Greeks abroad, as a barometer to measure confusion or a sense that the future is still going somewhere.

Marc Sursock
Monaco

Don't blame the Germans again


"If it weren’t for Europe and the United States, Germany would not have transformed into what it is today: a big, strong and hegemonic nation.
“Nevertheless, Germany behaves as if it has no knowledge of its past, or as if it does not care, as if it were suffering from selective amnesia. It appears to have forgotten the 65 years of peace and growth following the devastating Second World War. It is constantly evoking the demons of the interwar years, the humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles, the inflated Deutsche mark, Nazism."
Mr Xydakis
Germany had the Marshall Plan assistance. She also had discipline, organisation, pride and self-respect. She worked up from ground zero, where:
* 61 German cities containing a combined population of 25 million inhabitants [out of 82 million population) were attacked by Bomber Command between 1939 and 1945;
* 3.6 million homes were destroyed (20% of the total);
* 7.5 million people were made homeless;
* 300,000 Germans are thought to have been killed as a result of the raids (10 times more than died in the UK Blitz), and 800,000 were wounded;
* Berlin was 70% destroyed by bombing; Dresden 75% destroyed;
Even as a divided nation she was among the top four economically. And yet most Germans work a strict eight-hour day, pay their taxes and obey rules and regulations. They obey the social contract of each helping the other to their best ability. Any profession from garage mechanic to university professor has a qualification that is very well earned. They are one of the most cultured, imaginative and creative nations in Europe. A huge contrast to Greece; Greeks could learn from them if they had any sense...
Germans are as deeply emotionally and psychologically scarred by the war as are Russians and Greeks. To suggest otherwise is so profoundly misinformed as to be almost insulting to the memory of all the Germans who died in that war and the families who lost through death. And one other thing: It is usually the Europeans who like to remind Germany of her interwar demons. How many times a week do we get some programme on “the evil Germans”?
I guess you would call the 45 years of the Cold War when W. Germany faced East Germany for 45 years across the border of death a 'peaceful existence'? The Germans built up not knowing whether it would all be for nothing if the Soviets invaded and nuclear catastrophe would ensue. In the meantime they created one of the most socio-economically advanced countries in Europe, and gave 300,000 Greeks a home and work.
Their big mistake was the euro. They were hoping that all Europe would come together after two world wars to create prosperity. They were naive in this. After the demise of the USSR and the liberation of E. Europe, they took advantage of export opportunities. There are those Germans who want to Germanise Europe. There are those who want to return to the Deutschmark. Within the European crises there is a profound German crisis. In another generation her productivity along with her population will decline. So will Russia's. So will Europe in general. Germany is reacting with purpose in a perhaps shortsighted way to try to ease the demise of Europe, and combine with Russia.
Greeks, on the other hand, after 1950 (eight months of fighting Italians and Germans, eight years of fighting each other) are merely imploding into a kind of 'supervised chaos'; the Germans are supervising, the Greeks are chaotic... They achieved a stability with some wealth from American aid and being a NATO lynchpin in the Mediterranean. But they left their country almost entirely underdeveloped... They thought for 30 EU years that they were wealthy and clever. Now they know they are just poor and chaotic and opportunist when they should be cooperative.
Don't blame Germans for Greek failings. Nor Europe. Germans and Europe made a mistake for 30 years letting Greece in when she wasn't up to it. But Greeks have been making the mistake of thinking/imagining they were sovereign and independant for 200 years. In fact all they were doing was defaulting continuously and being everyone else’s patsies... And remaining largely Ottoman in mentality to boot.

Philip Andrews

‘Crunch time for Germany,’ and a few dead on the side...


Very early on Sunday, Reuters published news that makes articles such as «German demons» sound totally out of touch with reality.
The new stability pact that is expected to be announced maybe as soon as today, with its stringent rules on budget deficit regulations -- including fines to countries that miss their targets -- means in effect that by March Greece will be totally bankrupt. That is a serious thing to say, but I 'm afraid that most commentators agree, citing the privatisation program that has brought 1/4 of the anticipated revenue to help fund the Greek debt! And it is a fact that Greek politicians also have the worst rating in Europe, and no one (as in Greece) believes anything they say... How can a finance minister get it wrong by yet another three billion is a subject most by now tend to take as a joke... «What next?» with a smile is the consensus. But having said that, nothing here is amusing to the Greek population! If this happens -- as more and more predict -- after Germany's own new difficulty to raise money cheaply, I do think it's a must to start printing responsible articles 1) saying it! 2) being very creative by saying what are the least worse political, social, economical available reforms when that happens because now the odds are it probably will! Since when did Greek governments respect their targets or in the past had a clue what was meant by «budget"? All Greeks agree on that point except of course some die-hard unionists... Probably the nephew of the sister of the cousin of etc in «government»... So? Are we going to become real? Or shall we explore the depth of the German psyche?

Marc Sursock
Geneva

Germans are not demons


I always read in the Greek papers that the Germans are the bad people. But that is not true.
We in Holland suffered very much under the German occupation during World War II. I think more than Greece. Can you for example remember the total destruction in 1940 of the Dutch city of Rotterdam (1,000,000 inhabitants). Think further about the destroying of Arnhem (150,000) and Nijmegen (150,000). We had no harbours or railways anymore. Our people were starved at the end of the war.
But now the Greeks always play the victims of all things. But in the case of the bankruptcy of Greece, we in Holland support the Germans. The Greeks have always lied to the other European countries about their financial statistical data. The Greeks have for 10 years spent the money of the other Europeans. And now again we have to pay for you. You have to be grateful, but you are egoists. Think about it.

Ruud Holland

German demons


Unfortunately this attitude of German demons prevails in the Greek psyche.
How will Greece move forward when we cannot understand that we are our own worst enemy? Blaming others is pointless and destructive to Greece's future.

April Michas

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