The large divergence in the degree to which tax burdens are distributed among Greeks is revealed in a recent survey conducted by Greek think tank IOBE for the research center diaNEOsis.
According to the survey, which uses data from 2015, 20 percent of taxpayers declared 53 percent of the total income revealed to tax authorities and forked out 80 percent of the overall taxes paid by individuals that year.
The other 80 percent of taxpayers, which in 2015 corresponded to people with incomes up to 19,000 euros, declared 47 percent of the total income and paid 20 percent of the overall taxes submitted by individuals.
The authors of the report explain the above percentages can be partly explained by the differences in average income and the progressivity of tax rates.
However, what seems to turn a small fraction of taxpayers into “beasts of burden” is "the tightness of the tax base in Greece and the extensive tax evasion that essentially violates the principle of horizontal equality.”
In other words, “people with the same ability to pay do not seem to enjoy the same tax treatment, either because of different tax rates and exemptions that still exist in the legislation or due to extensive tax evasion.”
The report also notes that, compared to 2008, the income distribution has not changed significantly, which shows that the reduction of incomes was relatively uniform.
However, increases in tax rates, the abolition of the tax-free threshold and the reduction of rebates and other income tax exemptions, have affected more taxpayers who previously did not contribute to income tax revenues.
A separate problem of the Greek tax system is the proliferation and fragmentation of legislation, as well as the constant changes.
“In the period 2002-2015, 36 tax laws (or 2.6 laws per year) were voted, each of which had an average of 78 articles presented in 68 pages,” the survey says.
What's more, legislative interventions were not limited to tax laws, as more than 40 tax-related provisions were passed, scattered among other laws.