Tag Archives: Greece tax

A taxing issue for Greece

Greece’s tax collectors were told over the weekend that they would have to do a much better job this year at gathering overdue taxes. How much better? Almost 200 percent.

According to Skai TV, some 700 million euros was collected in 2011 by chasing down taxpayers that had run up debts. This year, inspectors will have to collect 2 billion euros as Greece tries to meet even tougher fiscal targets amid a deepening recession.

Preliminary figures showed that tax revenues were already 1 billion euros short of the government’s target in January alone, with VAT receipts showing a considerable drop. As consumption decreases, so do revenues, which makes it even more vital that any existing debts are settled.

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A cheap three-chord trick

Illustration by Manos Symeonakis

There are many things for which Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will be called a liar over the weeks to come, but something he said in his muddled news conference on Tuesday rang true: It was when he explained how he found it “impossible to explain” to those outside Greece the opposition parties’ stances on how the country should tackle its economic crisis.

As flawed and damaging as the eurozone and International Monetary Fund-inspired austerity program has been, the alternatives being suggested by the opposition have been even more confused and unrealistic. The prime target for Venizelos’s comment was PASOK’s main political rival, New Democracy, which has elbowed even the Communist Party out of the way in its effort to be in the front line of those opposing the current formula for overcoming Greece’s massive debt problem.

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Paying the cost of the crisis

The news earlier this month that Greeks, acting on fears the country might exit the euro, transferred 30 billion euros to foreign banks, many of them in Switzerland, would have left most people in the debt-ridden country perplexed. It is a year since Greece signed a deal with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to receive a 110-billion-euro bailout to prevent bankruptcy. That agreement came with strict terms and over the last 12 months the government in Athens has imposed the kind of austerity measures that make it difficult for Greeks to imagine that some of their countrymen might have enough spare cash to deposit in Swiss bank accounts.

One of the key features of the loan agreement has been repeated tax increases. Value added tax (VAT) has gone up several times since last year, income tax has been adjusted, duties on alcohol, fuel and tobacco products have been hiked and the tax on pensions has been increased. As a result, Greece now has the third-highest VAT rate in the EU, the second-highest duty on petrol and the third-highest social security contributions in the 27-nation bloc.

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