OPINION

On money-moving politicians, German tax officers, Greece’s dignity and properties levies

German tax officials It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what is wrong with the Greek tax system. Firstly, the TAXIS system which operates here in Greece courtesy of INTRACOM, simply doesn’t work. There is no complete system, any of the young employees at your local tax office will tell you that. Each tax, whether it’s FPA or FMY, is on a seperate data base.

Secondly, the way the tax authorities operate in Greece is: they select the companies that are making a profit and paying their taxes and then they harass them in the hopes of finding some error so they can (as one honest tax advisor told us) take them to the cleaners. They are not interested in private citizens or public workers, unlike the UK, which rarely visits business concerns except to check VAT returns, there, they check tax returns against expected earnings. If we operated with this system then doctors and lawyers operating in Athens areas of Kolonaki and Pendeli wouldn’t be able to submit earnings of 8,000 Euro.

The other point is even if they send 1,600 tax inspectors here, what will happen when they arrest the culprits? Will they send them to European courts, because if not, our legal system will set them free with a court case date for 12 months? time, which will then be extended by their solicitors for another 12 months.

That of course is if you don’t have a friend in high places. If however they manage to trap a celebrity, even one that doesn’t submit tax returns for five years, then the Germans will see Greek justice. They will watch him/her walk away with a fine and 300 years to pay it off. At the same time will they arrest the Greek tax inspectors that have managed to file away the records which refer to the millions of tax owed by some citizens.

Please, German technocrats, we want 160 lawyers to change our law courts before you make programs for tax collection.

Ann Baker

The kind of content I would like to see on your website

Stories about national entrepreneurial initiatives, their history, how they were born, a few words about their author, stories that would inspire others (young) to do the same or best, useful addresses and links, financing programmes etc. To inspire Greeks and develop entrepreneurial initiatives in Greece. We should all move on or help doing so!

Emmanuella Alevrofas

Re: Emergency signal

To answer your first question, Mr Papachelas, no, it’s not possible, otherwise you wouldn’t be in the current mess. «Fairly quickly?» Definitely not, that has been proven again and again.

The state is paralyzed, the politicians’ job descriptions have changed. But which nerve broke down? When your politicians were elected, nothing could have been further from their minds than working for the Greek people. They only wanted to look after their own interests, their egos, their cronies. So why should they be able to do anything now? Leopards changing their spots? I don’t think so.

And in the middle of this crisis, they have to focus on being re-elected, looking good, sounding very good (i.e. telling more lies), instead of actually rolling up their sleeves and saving their country. Why on earth couldn’t elections have been postponed to (earliest) 2013, so that energies could, in the meantime, be spent on finding solutions, creating growth and jobs? Instead, the focus is on lies, lies and more lies, fixing their nest eggs, keeping or getting that lucrative politicial job.

Planning? Actually doing something to help the economy? Using the EU funds available (but not used) to at least stem the recession? Not a chance. They are too useless and inept to be conspiring to actually help their people. But then again, I don’t understand why people question the need for 300 parliamentarians, compared to USA, etc. It takes huge skill and talent, garnered over many years of mentoring, 30 to 40 years of training, to drive a gravy train. Think of all the carriages that have been added, the passengers collected along the way (regardless of whether they were on the left or right platform), and the tracks that had to be built. To say nothing of the fuel to keep the train going. Do we seriously think they had time for anything else?

Plus, of course, pandering to the banks, thinking up ever new taxes from the fools who can be made to pay, protecting their rich friends who could afford to pay but don’t, emptying their full garbage cans of all the fakelakis.

The poor things must be simply exhausted. And the real people who want to help will walk into wall after wall of bureaucracy, until they eventually just give up and take their skills elsewhere, to a country where their entrepreneurship will actually be appreciated.

Mary-Ann Faroni

Zurich

Berlin to send tax officers to help Athens

If this was an armed conflict the Greek government would be classified as traitors. If German volunteers are coming over to show the tax officers how it gets done right, why are our «overworked» «experts» are continuing to collect salaries? From the top of the Finance Ministry down to the last employee of the tax collection office, all should be fired and have them return the pay they collected while they were delinquent in their duties. They are either incompetent or something worse. Last week the government officials were telling us that there would be no outside oversight and it took less than a week to either change their minds or prove themselves wrong once again. The bottom line is that we have proven we cannot take care of our affairs so far. The tax volunteers will not be the first and last ones to come in and take over. Pretty soon we will have a different kind of yoke, not that we do not deserve all the humiliation we are getting, but it is disheartening that no one of those in charge cares. Mr Venizelos is already in cahoots with ND for a coalition government after the next elections. As if they did not suck our blood dry yet, they will be back on the trough, all of them, the morning after to take «charge» again. Perhaps Nero had it right after all. Those who can will leave the country for parts of the world where they can earn a decent living. The rest who cannot go anywhere should pick up the instrument of their choice and play away while Greece burns. Monica Lane Florida US Greek MPs hiding their millions in offshore banks Dear Kathimerini Editors, Are you going to sit there and let Mr. Venizelos get away with letting his political MP cronies off the hook by not saying anything in the press about the blatant way he is going to let these MP thieves steal from Greece and send their stolen monies to offshore accounts without a fight? Where is your backbone? What is the matter with the news media in Greece today?! www.ekathimerini.com, Friday February 24, 2012: Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Parliament that a significant number of lawmakers had moved sums in excess of 100,000 euros out of the country.

He noted however that the list of names would not be made public as the individuals will be summoned to provide explanations. ?Some of the cases might involve health problems or relatives making legal and normal commercial exchanges,? he said. Outrageous… No wonder the country is broke when these same criminals get away with looting the country! Robert Powell PhD Berlin to send tax officers to help Athens I welcome this move by the Germans. This way will help the Greeks to learn more and I hope stop the massive corruption in the country. Enough is enough. Peter Panagioti Time for dignity The ball is rolling and everyone is trying to get out of the way. Unfortunately we have been lead into a narrow path and no one will escape with the exception of an elite sum of individuals. Mainly the same people who have taken the patriotic role of government whom with reluctance (as they claim) have sold us down the river. Dignity has been lost to a history that has yet to be written and faces stare with shame and anger in disbelief. The truth has been obscured from reality and time is crushing any chance of amendment. What can anybody do? Who will guard the people’s rights? I propose art as freedom and freedom of art in all forms. Every citizen must embrace all expressions of art as the path to prosperity. We must not resist the obvious to pass through these most challenging trials ahead. Let?s open up our hearts and our minds to new ways. And not waste any more energy on critism of others and mostly of ourselves. Hari T German tax officers Maybe it is not a really bad idea to help Greece to reform and renew its tax system but that this help should be especially from German tax officers makes me really afraid now. Not that I fear that my mother country will finally overtake Greece, we might be bean counters but we are not masochists, it is more the fact that the German tax system is one of the most complicated in the whole world. Just imagine that 70% of the world?s literature about taxes is published in the German language while Germans make up just 2% of the world?s tax payers. In my eyes the Greek government should have asked Estonia already two years ago how to build up a modern and efficient state. Estonia has one of the most modern, efficient and «slim» state sectors in Europe and has been awarded several times for that. Only thing I can say now is good luck Greece! At least it will boost jobs for tax accountants and the printing industry. Sebastian Schroeder Patra Most Germans overwhelmingly oppose further aid for Greece The poll by the Emnid Institute in Bild am Sonntag newspaper found 62 percent oppose a new 130-billion rescue package while 33 percent are in favour.

A similar Emnid poll in September found 53 percent opposed and 43 percent in favour. Most Germans also want Greece to leave the eurozone. Another interesting fact here is Germany has a 620 member Parliament for a population of 82 million, Greece has 300 members for 11 million. Throwing good money at Greece will not work — all it does is buy time. Sometimes in business you have to cut your losses and move on. The current politicians in Greece are incapable of change; it?s more or less the same corrupt politicians that led Greece to debt. Ms Merkel needs to listen to the German people. George Salamouras Australia Greece?s current situation Decades ago Greeks migrated to foreign lands in search of a better future. They arrived with no money, no clothes, no knowledge of the language. Everything was foreign. It would have been such a daunting experience or should I say frightening experience. They worked hard and supported and helped each other to make their dreams come true. They bought their houses then paid them off, then they bought another house and paid it off. They weren?t handed down to them and they in turn taught their children to do it the same way as they did. We were taught by our hardworking parents that started with nothing that in order to survive you have to earn success. On top of all that our parents went to countries that didn?t thrive on corruption, which in Greece is actually an industry on its own. Where did you think you would end up one day? Could you not see what was going on around you for decades? Could you not see that your politicians were crooked? Could you not see that the whole society was built on corruption? Stop blaming everyone else and learn from others. The first thing you should do is find people that can lead you out of this mess because all we can see is the same old crooked leaders as before and the world is getting fed up with you. Learn from your brothers and sisters that left your shores 50 years ago how they spent more time working than complaining. I invited a relative to pack up and migrate to Australia before the situation deteriorated and the response from their parent that left Australia after working and building a decent nest egg was, ironically, ?Yes, go to Australia and learn the fruits of that country by working 100 hours a week.? I don?t work 100 hours a week but I work 60, but I work 60 because I enjoy all the fruit of life and if I worked 40 I?d still enjoy the fruits of life. Even at 40 hours:

1. We have a good medical system where I don?t have to buy a doctor with envelopes. 2. Where our politicians are scrutinised for a couple of dollars, not found out after they have emptied the cash register. 3. We have our children educated at a high world standard. 4. Our children establish a career on merit, not on who they know or who they will vote for . 5. We have all of our essentials.

But for all that and much more we work when we go to work. To get what we all have, you have to start from scratch and this is what you will struggle to do. T. Velonas Germany’s debt to Greece Think about the debt still owed by Germany to Greece as a result of the occupation, 1941 to 1945, and then the iniquitous 1953 London Agreement which was so beneficial to Germany; I understand that Germany agreed to pay once the east and west of Germany was re-united into one state, and when that state was recognised as the ‘successor to the German Empire’! [I get this information via a website and interview with a German professor at the London School of Economics.] So what is the problem? Is the re-united Germany not the successor to the German Empire? Britain is the successor to the British Empire. As with all empires. In fact we (I am British) are often asked to apologise for this, that and the other incident which happened long ago! The Ottoman Empire was responsible for atrocious behavior against Armenians and others in the years 1915 to 1923. Recently we have seen Turkey branded as perpetrators of genocide for what the Ottomans did, because Turkey is the successor of the Ottoman Empire. We understand this. The German state today must come under the very same criteria. Why is Greece not following up on this? Is it because so many politicians have benefitted from German commercial shenanigans? Siemens comes to mind and no doubt there are more examples. What should be done now? Rosemary Papaeliou Aegina, Greece A simplistic view of financial haircuts Please picture the following imaginary scenario: I have a small financial business and I lend 1,000 Euros to Helmut, to be repaid after 20 years. Helmut is ultra-reliable and I?m certain I?ll get my money back so I charge him only 1% interest. I also lend 1,000 Euros to Costas, also to be repaid after 20 years. This is a bit of a risk so I charge him 5% interest. As I feared, Costas runs into financial problems and he won?t be able to pay back his loan. After long and difficult negotiations his advisors (my friends of course) tell me that I?ll have to take a 53.5% ?haircut? on his loan. To compensate, I?ll be given tax relief on my ?losses? and other little ?sweeteners?. It seems I?ll have to accept. When we do the sums, 5% compound interest over 20 years on 1,000 Euros means that Costas would need to pay me back around 2,650 Euros. A 53.5% ?haircut? reduces this to 1,230 Euros, or almost exactly the same as Helmut will have to pay me back. My tax relief and ?sweeteners? give me some decent extra profits. I took a calculated risk that went wrong but, thanks to my friends, I still ended up with a greater profit than I got from my safe investment. What?s more, I can tell everyone that I?ve suffered great losses to help poor Costas. If only money could be made so easily in the real world.

Chris Feather

Nea Makri, Attica

Debt restructuring means what? Last time I raised some searching questions about the feasibility or otherwise of the latest bailout scheme of things as worked out by the EU/ECB/IMF led ‘Troika’.

Giving sufficient ground based analysis it was even mentioned that this oppressive agreement is being forced on the Greek people under duress and that ultimately they will most likely impose forced sell/auction of the precious assets of the country on the basis of ‘Buy one, get two free’. (Refer my comments on reading the full text of the agreement two days ago — still remains to be not moderated and published). If you don’t mind, the issues regarding the rescue of the Greek economy are matters of life and death for the common citizens there. The minister in this report is talking about restructuring and implementing — perhaps without trying to understand what a ‘debt restructuring’ means, if at all it is the intention of the ‘Troika’ to help revive this sinking economy. This is an independent opinion because bailout after bailout with stringently harsh conditions coupled with unbearable austerity measures might bring Greece to the brink of an implied/forced suicide — much against the will of its well wishers like my country, the USA, when it says no to the IMF for giving Greece the poison pills of bailouts anymore. A constructive way out toward ‘debt restructuring’ could mean (i) diluting the terms and conditions of the bailout agreement, (ii) remissions or even write-off of interest payable on the existing debts and possibly no interest on the future loans to enable it to pay the debt of 160% of GDP in a decade or so, (iii) to help the country in reviving the economy by providing technical support to gear up employment opportunities and bringing the existing unemployment of 20% to between 7-8% in five years, (iv) to discard and revisit the possibility of the estimate of GDP growth of Greece economy of 2-2.50% in ten years next, keeping in view the rising oil prices due to the troubled Persian Gulf situation and help Greece from being forced to buy oil at expensive rates from the robust EU oil companies, (v) to extend the repayment period of the debts, possibly by reducing the installment amount and the compounding penalties in the shape of interest, (vi) saving this troubled economy by protecting it from the clutches of the big European banks, money lenders, bond traders, writing off 75% of the private debts and including everything in a comprehensive agreement to be carved out by the ‘Troika’ in co-ordination with Greece and finally (vii) pave the way toward raising the morale and confidence of consumers to help boosting its industrial growth and tourism to enhance government revenue generation possibilities, including tax. Actually, by restructuring the Greek debts the EU/ECB/IMF ‘Troika’ would be helping the other PIIGS economies, which are already in troubled waters. It will also secure the cause of the single euro zone currency-EURO especially for Germany, France and others. This is going to be a sacrifice for once and for all for a member ER country instead of giving the poisonous bailout injections. Amir Dewani Florida, USA Tax burden to get bigger in June Just when we thought this rock had no more blood to give, the Greek parliament found some more to squeeze out. And they will lift all the other rocks in order to bleed some more. I note the politicians’ imagination, creativity and dedication to solving Greece’s problems, such as growing the economy, attracting investments, creating jobs, cutting bureaucracy. As yet another pig flies past my window. Mary-Ann Faroni Zurich Your only chance to save Greece My God! When are you Greeks going to wake up to the real truth? How can you expect Greece’s economy to get better when you still have the same corrupt politicians and criminal elites running the country? Get rid of them first, then you have a chance to save Greece! Robert M. Powell Property to cost owners even more I’ll wait to hear the outcome of these discussions, seeing as I’ve just started the process of buying an island property. With all the laws and taxes already in existence, it may just change my mind. As much as I love Greece, I’m neither stupid nor do I have money to throw away. Have your politicians squeezed their own citizens enough now (not by a long shot!), so they can now turn to the stupid foreigners? And of course this is going to give the ailing construction industry just the boost it needs, people are going to be falling over themselves to build huge mansions all over Greece. Just when you think they’ve (the headless chickens in parliament) made yet another stupidest decision or knee-jerk reaction, they come up with something new. Why are we still surprised? Other countries have nice beachfront properties as well; other countries have tourism industries as well. Mary-Ann Faroni Zurich Give Greece a chance? Why then should the EU give Greece chances and money when the wealthiest Greeks take their money abroad? When the wealthiest Greeks don’t want to invest in Greece? Don’t ask others to do to you what you can do yourself. Hed Alexander