OPINION

End of reason, end of humanity

The effects of a slew of new and increased taxes introduced since the start of the crisis were first observed in the wages of those still fortunate enough to have jobs, who saw their take-home pay decrease by as much as 40 percent over the course of four years. It was the anticipated effect of internal devaluation, yet it was not accompanied by a corresponding reduction in the cost of basic goods and services.

The deluge of new taxes forced many Greeks to gradually eat through their savings in order to make good on their commitments to the state. But even this sudden drop in living standards and earnings could only be tolerated by Greeks from the middle and lower-middle classes as long as they still had a job and a roof over their heads.

The home, however, was where the second big blow was dealt, in the form of an emergency property tax levied through electricity bills which has now been included in the so-called Single Property Tax (ENFIA), a scaled levy that covers all real estate assets, including primary residences. The government realized when it first launched the new tax that it was problematic in many respects and put an unjust burden on certain categories of citizens. To address these problems it introduced full exemptions for families with three children or more and for the disabled, as well as a 50 percent reduction for people on low incomes or pensions and the unemployed, along with a 20 percent discount for properties that are not connected to the power grid.

But large families and the disabled are not eligible for the exemption when their declared earnings exceed 12,000 euros a year and their property is larger than 150 square meters. What this means, in short, is that the government believes that a person who has a disability of 80 percent or over, or a family of six can live with some modicum of dignity on 1,000 euros a month and cover the expense of electricity, water, heating, food, clothing, medicines and healthcare – as well as afford to pay between 500 and 1,000 euros a year in taxes for their home. It is true that the benefits received by the unemployed or large families, the severance pay of workers who have been sacked and the pensions of the disabled are exempted from the tax on revenues, but since they are calculated as revenues they do not allow any property tax breaks. The state sees the benefits that are meant to help vulnerable members of society as a source of taxes. We are experiencing the end of reason and the end of humanity.