Greek Tax Agents Meet Hostile Crowds

Riot police were needed to control an angry crowd at a Hydra taverna.
Riot police were needed to control an angry crowd at a Hydra taverna upset the owner was arrested for tax violations

Restaurant and tavern owners and customers are increasingly harassing tax inspectors at a time when Greece has intensified a long-overdue crackdown on tax evasion, but officials are determined to enforce the tax laws.

Residents in a village in Peloponnese barred SDOE Financial Crimes Squad inspectors from leaving an establishment after they issued a citation from an audit this month.

Similarly, in a village in Crete, tax inspectors faced a near-violent crowd that forced the team to leave before they could issue a one-month closure order against a tavern.

A nightclub in the city of Chalkidiki continued operating despite inspectors ordering it shut for tax evasion and arresting the owner for failure to comply.

“That is the mentality in Greece, nobody respects the laws. If you try to make them pay, they get angry,” Andreas Kanakareas, 53, a video store manager, told Southeast European Times.

Many businesses do not issue receipts, which prompted the government’s drive to enforce the tax laws to bring in critically-needed revenues.

The government passed a law stipulating customers do not have to pay for goods or services if they do not receive a receipt, but the law has been ignored by many.

Citizen resistance began last year on the island of Hydra, where riot police from the mainland were called in to rescue tax agents for citing a restaurant owner. However, no charges have been brought against anyone interfering with the agents.

“No matter the reactions, they have to do the audits and the government is doing its best to achieve results,” Antonis Klapsis, Head of Research for the Konstandinos Karamanlis Institute for Democracy in Athens, told SETimes.

The squeeze is targeted at restaurants, taverns and nightclubs – especially on islands notorious for runaway tax evasion — during a record-breaking tourist season. Authorities found out during two-week inspections this month that nearly half of the 586 places it checked were in violation of tax laws.

There are signs the days of leniency are over. Tax agents closed a restaurant on the island of Chios for two days at the height of the tourist season and issued a 5,000-euro fine against the owner.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras stepped up enforcement because he persuaded the country’s international lenders to decrease the VAT on eateries from 23 percent to 13 percent until 2014 to boost tourism.

But Samaras warned the VAT will increase again if establishments do not pass the savings on to the customers and if they keep taxes from the state.

“We are engaged in an unprecedented campaign, closing down businesses and legislating. You cannot win the fight against tax evasion without carrying out checks,” Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told Mega TV.

Stournaras criticized those business owners who pocketed the sales tax levied on transactions. “If this is Greek society’s system of values, then I am sorry but penalties must be imposed. We must all demand receipts,” he said.

The top tourist destinations of Mykonos, Santorini and Crete had tax avoidance rates of more than 56 percent, and authorities ordered 12 establishments closed for a month and additional 14 shut down.

The ideology in Greece for a long time has been it is not so bad if one steals from the state, according to Alex Sakellariou, a sociologist at Panteion University in Athens.

“The state itself never actually wanted to cultivate a tax consciousness among the citizens because it was the state that promoted these client relations with the people, and it is extremely difficult to confront them now,” Sakellariou told SETimes.

 (Used by permission of Southeast European Times, www.setimes.com)


  • Tony Belluci

    I’d close every single restaurant, club, store etc that refuses and audit and would also conduct audits with the owners personally. That’s how things are done in a functioning state.

  • worldarts

    WAKE UP PEOPLE

    The scum that SYRIZA made up of communist, Stalinist, Marxist, CRIMINAL anarchist and MURDERERS black block nationalizing our banks, stealing our money and flooding Greece with illegal scum.

    Tsipras who idolizes Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavaz wants to turn Greece into the toilet hole that his idols created in those countries.

    I rather vote for Samaras or Venizelos and even Golden Dawn then let them destroy Greece

  • Tonto

    Exactly! And we wonder why the world stereotypes Greeks as “ethically challenged.”

    Take a lesson form history, Greece–no society is sustainable without the rule of and enforcement of laws.

  • Patrida

    They should arrest tsipras and try him for treason.

  • Tonto

    “Authorities found out during two-week inspections this month that nearly half of the 586 places it checked were in violation of tax laws.” And the article goes on to say, “However, no charges have been brought against anyone interfering with the agents.”

    What the . . . . is going on with this spineless state? Such IDIOTIC leniency and inconsistency just gives a meal ticket to every opportunist who wants to cheat the state themselves. Duh. . .

    It’s a no brainer–you weak-assed MPs and Judges: YOU CATCH AND PUNISH BAD PEOPLE TO PROTECT AND ENCOURAGE GOOD PEOPLE.

  • Tonto

    Alex? is that you? Seems to be–or someone you have put up to impersonate “worldarts”

    If this is truly you–worldarts–reply to this comment with your picture attached and acknowledge it’s all well and good. If you do not–we know this is an imposter and a shameful childish act by someone we strongly suspect.

  • Zultra

    Have you thought that most Places in those Areas are strugglng to feed themselves….

  • Peter

    Thank you for confirming what we already know. Greeks do not pay taxes and when they are caught they still pay no taxes.. as they continue on trading..
    Only foreigners and Greeks from the diaspora pay and pay and pay..and go back on holidays to be ripped off…by the locals..
    Greek laws need to be amended in relation to taxation and tax collection…
    People pay taxes based on assets they own and yet the neighbour can build on his or her land and loose it overnight as Greece has no land title registry or charges council rates or land tax on second and third homes…

    Greece is out of control and needs urgent changes in policy and enforcement..

  • ConcernedCitizen

    Samaras is doing a great job. Too bad for the other parties.

    Is hanging traitors still legal in Greece?

  • Arithehun

    What has surprised me all along with regard to revenue is why not do the simple things
    Increase tax on cigarettes and alcohol add 5 Euro to each pack and five Euro on each bottle of imported Spirit ,Wine and Beer
    Mandatory parking tickets and fines all that needs to be done is issue a monthly Parking ticket for each municipality no ticket your car gets towed
    Two things would happen revenue is received roads are less congested and its a user pays system you don’t want to pay don’t drive.
    And until the British return the Marbles 100 Euro entry tax on all British tourists
    Isn’t about time we got smarter

  • Arithehun

    I must be missing something I thought it was ND and PASOK that got Greece into the mess its in .I think Worldfarts is trying to trick us, I believe he is a closet Communist deep down and is confusing us with this reverse logic .

  • Arithehun

    I think you should be arrested and charged with impersonating a Greek

  • worldarts

    Alex is using my name “worldarts” again above– If he is so “honest” and believes in what he believes in as said above, then why does he have to use my “worldarts” name above to rant his hatred, instead of trying to lie to fool us using other people’s comment names??– He is mentally ill, I suspect.

  • worldarts

    Alex is trying to play mind games with all of us by using “worldarts” name here. WHY??? — Because he is a very sick boy!

  • worldarts

    I am the real worldarts because lex can’t get my photo picture… all without my picture to the left of worldarts comments are FRAUDS by Alex.

  • Deep_Sea_Diver

    I think you will find that the British have problems as well & would forget Greece & go to SO many other tourist friendly holiday resorts, so Greece would be the loser, as they certainly wouldn’t pay 100 Euros to come here. So that isn’t such a smart idea

  • Deep_Sea_Diver

    I couldn’t agree more. The law IS the law & HAS to be enforced. It IS in other EU states, so why not here?? Greece is like the Wild West, might is right. In which case the Police need to be mightier than the Outlaws

  • GreekCitizen

    This is the most one-sided, sensationalist article I’ve seen in a while. It presents one side of the story, neglecting to mention the fact that Greece suffers from a Medieval/Byzantine taxation system, where the government demands endless, ridiculous taxes and the only way to essentially survive is to ‘cheat’. There was even a recent IMF article on this issue, claiming that paying taxes in Greece is nonsensical.

    A small business in Greece has to pay around 14-16 taxes to the state. These include the recent “urgent” taxes for the “crisis” (like the flat 1000 euro/year entrepreneur fee, whether you turn a profit or not), and laughable ones such as “pereosi” which charges you an extra tax after all other taxes are paid, to make sure you don’t get audited (which in Greece with its convoluted tax system and corrupt tax collectors is the same as saying fined to bankruptcy).
    It includes PRE-PAYING next year’s tax at 50%-80% of this year’s tax. It includes compulsory insurance that costs x10 the amount of private insurance and provides laughable healthcare. It includes taxation of 40% from the very first cent earned with no untaxed ‘cushion’ level.

    So instead of first fixing the system, of making it civilized and normal, they add MORE taxes at TROIKA’s requests and to gather money, during this “crisis” that has resulted in 10s of thousands of small businesses closing down, in almost 30% unemployment and 60% for youths, and they go on a witch hunt for tax evasion (which does exist as the system is corrupt and ridiculous), with the intent of closing down even those businesses that stand to still be open.

    If you think I’m exaggerating ask me to analyze each and every one of the taxes a small business has to pay, which amount to more than Scandinavians would pay, but with wages at less than 1/5 (perhaps 1/10? minimum wage is now 430 euro/month here), and with social benefits that are a joke under our corrupt, thieving politicians.

  • Tonto

    Yeah and I feel their pain but once again–with that rationale for breaking the law, there will exist total chaos. It can not be an individual’s choice to expect to break a law and not be punished–just because they have a “goof excuse.”.

    Using that logic, everyone has a reason to cheat the system–but no system can last of you consider the law to be an “optional proposition.” Example: I have a reason to run a red light when I am late to work–so should I be allowed to and if caught be excused for it? Example: My cousin’s baby needs to have a surgery–so should he be allowed to rob a supermarket for the cash to help his child. Then be freed from jail because of his excuse? Unfortunately not.

    The law is the law–the sooner Greece begins to work under that imperative the sooner we will get back on our feet as a nation.
    We can not have a whole country of anarchists willing to break down the system just because it doesn’t fit their own agenda. This is where Greece is headed–total and utter chaos if that thinking prevails.

  • Tonto

    Yeah, I sort of thought you could verify this and establish that you have an impostor on here. I would have to put Alex as my first suspect, though I can not prove it. An IP account check of the computer sending the rants might help. That may be necessary if the owners of this forum choose to clean up their site of law-breakers. Ti my knowledge there are laws in most countries about impersonating someone publicly.

    And by the way–why haven’t we seen Mr. “Alex the Magnificent lately”?

    Maybe he has gotten stronger meds from his psychiatrist. Maybe he has gone to FYRM to be a mercenary in the war over its name.
    Or maybe the computer he is using has been confiscated by the authorities for making real threats to people.

  • Tonto

    Amen, brother. Think they will before it’s too late?

  • Tonto

    Granted–the whole cyclic nightmare is bringing the country to its knees. But you can not get sympathy from the rest of the world when you say things like: “. . . the only way to essentially survive is to ‘cheat’. . .”

    The article is not perfect, yet it does bring to people’s attention internationally that Greeks are often thinking selfishly and acting in accordance of “every man for himself.” This is not a way to run a society–all individuals who operate only on their own needs.

    In fact, historically it can be acknowledged that as soon as the rule of law collapses (and here, as in this article it has) the social fabric dissolves into chaos (which is also happening). Greece is not far from ruin now.

    Everyone can give some excuse for why they “want” to cheat the system. But those who actually do have crossed the line and in any society (that survives) they must pay the price for it–regardless of their needs.

    Example 1: If I run all the red lights into Athens because I will be late to work if i don’t–should I be excused? Why not I had a “good reason” according to my own interests.

    Example 2: If my cousin’s child needs a surgery to help her walk better, should he rob a supermarket to get the cash? And if caught should the state let him off because it was his personal “good cause”?

    People are getting fed up with the excuses in tis country to just come up to their social responsibility–and that includes paying for the services the country needs to operate.

    Will this be painful for many right now–yes. Does everyone have an obligation to their country and not just their own vested interests–yes.

    Once you view the rule of law like a “joke.” Once you goive people the idea laws are only “optional” the game is over. We are near that point now–mainly for this idiotic attitude.

    Why else does the world look at Greece right now as in need of help but also as one of the most ETHICALLY CHALLENGED nations in Europe?

  • GreekCitizen

    You don’t seem to grasp the extend to which the system is broken. Which is understandable for a person from a sane country, and I’m not saying that I (or anyone for that matter) want the system to remain as is.

    The thing is that the system is so broken and corrupt, that for a small business to be 100% legal they would have to pay more than they make in profit, if they are lucky enough to have any profit at all. Especially now with this “crisis” and the constant new taxes (4 taxes for daring to own property for example, many people are selling off their houses to be able and pay new, crazy taxes, at fractions of their previous value), coupled with people having no money to spend on small businesses, everything is disintegrating.

    I’m not saying that everyone is a saint, of course some people cheated for extra profit, these types exist everywhere and to think otherwise is to fall for racist propaganda of the past few years.

    What I am saying is that 1) people should be educated about the extreme, destructive taxation of small businesses (even Greeks since non business owners don’t know the details and are bombarded by mainstream media faithful to the government about evil, cheating Greeks, like this article), and most importantly 2), the system should be made sane, rational and civilized.

    AFTER the system is fixed, and there are for example 3-4 taxes for businesses instead of 16, then I’m all for hunting down tax evasion and even jailing everyone.

    As things stand now it’s not just going “to hurt”. It will simply completely eradicate what is left of Greek middle class economy, and only multinationals will remain.

    If you didn’t pay attention to the unemployment levels I mentioned, they are almost beyond the point of a completely failed and unable to function society.

  • Tonto

    GC–Thanx for the clarification. I do see you have a point. I know these dire conditions have pushed people into places they never thought they’d be–and do things they never believed they would do.

    I hope you’re right about the future where we can all pull it back together someday and start a better future. My favorite definition of “failure” is–Only the opportunity to begin more intelligently again.

  • Alex

    Sure you are a “Greek patriot” not a fraud that tries to be “friends” with slavic Tonto-ski that claims we are not “real” Greeks… yet claims theSkopians “macedonians”!

  • Alex

    Tonto-ski is a Skopian supporter (likely a Skopian himself) that claims we not “real” Greeks.. .but claims the Skopians as “real” Macedonians”!.

  • Alex

    fyi- Tonto-ski is a non-Greek that claism we are not “real” greeks.. .while colloding with Skopians (whom he claims as “real” Macedonians!)