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Greece is a poor country with rich citizens

23 September 2011 / 21:09:11  GRReporter
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Today the Greek Ministry of Finance once again announced that it will assign the collection of taxes which exceed the sum of 150,000 euros from private companies and law firms. According to the decision of the Minister Evangelos Venizelos these companies are obliged to find any kind of property of debtors in Greece and abroad in order to meet their obligations to the state. 

In the social networks the 'news' was greeted with reservations regarding its success. Many Greeks commented that it is hardly difficult to find debtors, such as the football boss Makis Psomiadis, who few days ago was released after paying bail in the amount 20,000 euros. According to various sources the same person has declared to the tax office that his annual income is eight thousand euros! 

The inefficiency of the system for collecting taxes, combined with the widespread at all levels of state administration corruption forced the Ministry of Finance to resort to the services of private firms. In its report the German magazine Stern describes very clearly all derivatives of this problem. 

The article begins with the statement that "Greece is threatened by bankruptcy, but the rich take their money abroad. Politicians are raging, civil servants do not know what to do and the poor are paying for everything." 

When the second biggest ship owner in Greece George Prokopiou was chased by the tax authorities, his case was described in the media with capital letters, and for the first time it seemed that the government's election promise, that the burden for the salvation of the country will be borne by all Greeks, was being followed. 

But according to unnamed sources from the National Intelligence Service, just two days after the tax authorities called him to settle his obligations, he transferred 600 million euros to Switzerland. It was something as a warning from the billionaire, suggesting that it would be better to leave him alone because he can take all his activities outside Greece. 

This shows, as Stern writes, that things are the way they were before: The people must save, while the ones who have money and connections are not afraid of anything. 

On this occasion, the President of the Institute for Economic and Industrial Studies Yannis Stournaras said: "We are a poor country with rich people. And these rich do not pay taxes because there is no political will to do so. The clienteles system continues to act here. Interests of politics and business are closely related, so politicians do not want to change things." 

Only a year ago Yannis Stournaras was optimistic that the authorities will find debtors who evade taxes with the help of satellite images of houses with swimming pools and by disclosure of the names of doctors and lawyers, who pay lower taxes than their cleaners. "But they did not catch not even one “big fish". I did not hear of anyone to be convicted. The entire burden falls on the shoulders of middle-class people and that is unacceptable. It is a poison for society which will demand retribution." 

In turn the responsible for the discovery of debtors Secretary of the Treasury Diomidis Spinelis said: "We are fighting on many fronts. Collecting taxes is accompanied by much sweat and blood." Spinelis creates an electronic control system that can compare data from different tax returns. "We are working for three days without sleeping. It is not always easy to move your employees." 

He told the magazine that he was forced to lay off 200 staff members, who could not follow this rhythm of work because of family obligations. The rest receive much lower wages, while doing more work. But the goal is worth it. The Spinelis System found several debtors and initiated the procedure in local tax offices. But, as he says: "The collection is not my job, I do not know what amounts are." 

According to official figures, 20,000 freelancers have annual revenues of over 100,000 euros, but only 73 of them are taxed on income that exceeds one million euros. The majority of about 700,000 do not pay even penny because they declare annual income of 12,000 euros. 

Professor of Economics Savas Rombolis estimated the losses from tax evasion by the self-employed at around 15 billion euros per year. Even this amount alone would be sufficient for the annual state debt. Taxes from shipping and tourism can contribute a further 20 billion euros. And although in other circumstances the situation in Greece could be as good as in Sweden, the authorities cannot collect a solid amount. 

As regards to the fight against tax evasion, the Director of the Office for prosecution of economic crimes Nikolaos Lekas ​​says: "Greece is determined not to bankrupt. Now we strictly apply all laws." At the same time he shows a list and says, "Here's a doctor. Within seven years, he has paid a total of 172,000 euros in taxes, and his bank account has 5.5 million euros." 

The new Director follows the steps of his predecessor Yiannis Kapeleris who at the beginning of the crisis, told the media that the party and the times in which debtors seek support from parliament members and finance ministers is gone forever. Many Greeks believed him, because it gave them courage. The media also responded positively. 

Tags: Greece economy crisis debt tax evasion rich middle-class
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