Protesters blockade tax offices around Greece; officials arrested [Update]

A deputy regional governor and a mayor were arrested in northern Greece on Tuesday on charges of obstructing the operation of a tax office in the village of Dekatsi during a protest by local residents against the merger of their local tax authority with that in the more centrally located town of Grevena.

Grevena Deputy Regional Governor Giorgos Dastamanis and Dekatsi Mayor Nikos Migos were among dozens of protesters preventing staff from the Dekatsi tax office from moving files to Grevena.

Prior to his arrest, Dastamanis had told local media that he would be petitioning the Finance Ministry to leave the Deskati tax office in place, arguing that the village is often cut off from Grevena in the winter due to snow.

The Deaktsi protest was one of nine taking place around Greece on Tuesday, where members of the public blockaded tax authorities in protest at Finance Ministry plans to merge tax offices in order to bring down their operational costs and streamline procedures.

In Athens, a group of protesters blockaded the tax office in the western suburb of Egaleo and municipal garbage trucks barricaded the street in front of the building, preventing staff from transferring files from Egaleo to the Haidari tax office, where the two authorities will be housed jointly.

In Naoussa, also in northern Greece, protesters blocked the move of the local tax authority to Veria for the second day in a row, while protests were also ongoing in Karystos in Evia, in Atalanti in Fthiotida, in Kalloni on Lesvos and in Kyparissia in Messinia, among others.

Greece has pledged to it foreign creditors to reduce the number of tax offices around Greece to 120 by the end of 2013, compared to 290 that were operating in 2011.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has said that most of the services carried out by the defunct tax offices will be processed by specialized Citizens’ Advice Bureaus (KEP) placed in local authority offices.