OPINION

Ads won’t stop tax evasion

The campaign against tax evasion launched by the Finance Ministry with ads in newspapers and television spots is catchy but I’m afraid that it is just a waste of money. Sure, the message that we, as consumers, should demand receipts for goods and services is correct, but let’s not kid ourselves: If you really want people to respect tax laws, they need to know that the taxpaying citizen will be rewarded and the shirkers punished, and that tax revenues will be managed well and not be squandered, and will be spent on education, health, development etc. Greece, alas, does not meet these criteria. The government is sinking the economy with huge budget deficits, while the social services it provides are inadequate and of poor quality. The honest businessperson who demands tighter tax controls ends up feeling a fool when he sees others being given favorable settlement terms. How is the average salaried professional supposed to gain respect for tax laws when he knows that for decades he has been carrying the country’s tax burden, since, along with pensioners, he is responsible for 50 percent of the country’s tax revenues and declares 68 percent of his taxable income on average, while big business declares just 16 percent and retailers, manufacturers and freelance workers declare 15 percent? Or what about when he sees major tax evaders walking around freely when they have been pocketing the VAT paid by their clients? Has a tax evader ever been outed in public? No, because the Economy Ministry does not publish the names of those it finds evading taxes and grants amnesty to media moguls. Finally, when the tax system is corrupt to such a degree and every business owner knows that without greasing a few palms his books will be found to be at fault, whether they are or not, how is he supposed to respect tax laws, knowing that the state is doing him a grave injustice? It is high time the Economy Ministry took a serious look at reforming the tax system, rather than launching a cute campaign that benefits no one but the advertising agency.