There’s an old Greek joke about a housewife who bought two washing machines just to have somewhere sturdy to place her washboard and basin. The whole issue with the point of sale (POS) terminals is sort of like that. Businesspeople in professions that are bound by law to accept card payments (85 sectors, according to the relevant ministerial decision) did as they were told and bought the terminals – most at the last minute so they wouldn’t miss the July 27 deadline.
It is estimated that 500,000 POS terminals had been installed up until the middle of this year. A report by Kathimerini on Friday, however, showed that the vast majority of professionals make only limited use of the machines. Bank data quoted in the report suggested that just one in 20 lawyers and one in four doctors who installed terminals in the last three months had actually used it at least once for card transactions in that period. It seems that the vast majority of professionals in fields where tax evasion is rife have installed a POS terminal simply to conform to the law rather than to actually use it – a bit like the two washing machines.
The POS issue is an ongoing battle. When the terminals were first introduced as mandatory, the move was lambasted and analyzed in minute detail to determine who was making a profit from the decision. Then we saw pockets of resistance, mainly from those who want to dodge taxes, but ultimately they all caved under the threat of a hefty fine and bought a terminal.
But before we even have a chance to heave a sigh of relief that one area of persistent illegality is finally being shut down, we get this data showing an extremely low rate of use among professional groups that simply refuses to issue receipts.
At the same time it’s not uncommon to see professionals in these fields – doctors, lawyers, plumbers, electricians, cab drivers and others – demanding that they be allowed to pay by card at restaurants, despite the fact that they refuse to use their own POS terminals when they’re transacting business.
The conclusion is that we seem to believe that all measures must be implemented as long as they don’t have an unpleasant effect on us. The government is also doing its part in fueling this mentality by overtaxation, hitting those who do abide by the law and encouraging those who don’t to continue. The POS issue, however, is structural and stems from a Greek proclivity for opposing the establishment and social hypocrisy. Everyone may publicly decry those who make a profit at the expense of others, but how many will actually defend this belief on a personal level?