As the noted American newspaperman journalist and writer Damon Runyon said: “All horse players die broke,” and to that you can add ethical people. Greeks who dutifully collected receipts in 2010 for everything because the Greek government said they would be needed to get a tax refund have been waiting for months to get what’s due, but probably won’t, even though they produced the documents the government first said were needed, then not needed, then required, but no one knew how many and for what.
Then someone in the tax department asked how could clerks handle tax returns with about 2,000 or so receipts attached and the government said maybe it could be done electronically, except for people who don’t have computers – which includes some clerks in the tax department. It really doesn’t matter, because the tax refunds that people are legally due have been held up for months and will be paid when hell freezes over or Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos, he who said the economic crisis was caused because there was enough money to go around and “We all ate it together,” goes on a hunger strike (What’s that? A cold snap has hit Hades? Let me change my bet!) Surgeons are checking Pangalos’ stomach to see if he ate all the receipts too.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, he of the gargantuan ego and Pangalosian size, and who also insisted on being made a Deputy Prime Minister so he could look Pangalos in the eye even if they can’t exactly meet face to face, is now the official collaborator of the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Fund. That’s because of the occasional vanishing act of former Prime Minister George Papandreou, so the finance chief has taken to his crown like Pangalos to a free buffet, and been issuing orders, edicts, fiats, decrees, commandments, proclamations and having a jolly good time playing the King of Greece. Greece is subsisting on a series of $152 billion in bailout loans from the Troika because every government since Pericles didn’t collect taxes from the rich, so he knows where his bread is buttered (don’t say those words around Pangalos.)
It was Venizelos who ordered an income tax surcharge he labeled a “solidarity tax,” and an “emergency” property tax that will be put into electric bills under the pain of having your power cut off if you don’t pay. Since the rich tax evaders hide their property, they won’t be paying the increase because they don’t pay any taxes. Thank Zeus they are exempt and don’t have to worry about having their electricity cut off and face losing access to Swiss bank accounts where they transfer the money they steal from the country. They also don’t collect receipts because they don’t need them, although just one for $10 million for a yacht would nicely cover their refund needs.
Venizelos just can’t stop himself, especially after Papandreou’s PASOK Anti-Socialist Members of Parliament unanimously rubber stamped approval for the property tax they don’t have to worry about paying either. Now comes the Venizelos Freeze in the Dark Effect as the cost of heating oil – just in time for winter – could rise about 50 percent, which fuel station owners and oil traders blamed mostly on an increase in Value Added Tax he also imposed. When one man does what he wants in a country and no one can stop him that’s a dictatorship. But wait, there’s more. He also ordered that people making the magnificent sum of $6,780 a year, about one month’s cell phone or lunch bill for Pangalos, will have to be taxed now too because they’ve been spending too much money on luxuries like food and it’s only fair they pay their fair share.
And get out of the way of the Venizelos Express, because while he doesn’t have the power to bring back the dead, unless it’s to hand them a bill for death taxes, he does have the authority to tell them they have to produce receipts months after they already filed their tax returns or they won’t get a refund (they wouldn’t anyway) and will have to pay an additional 10 percent tax for income they can’t offset by producing receipts they didn’t know they needed. He said they need receipts after all, but even he’s not sure how many, so God still leads him 1-0, or 1-Nil as the Europeans like to say.
As the respected newspaper Kathimerini noted, taxpayers who didn’t have the foresight to have hindsight and keep receipts stuffed in shoeboxes (trust me, it takes a lot of to hold several thousand receipts) won’t be able to produce any documentation to keep the Tax Man away, and they’d better hide their first born. This guy’s taking a piece of everything, at least if Pangalos leaves any behind. “Since the time remaining until the end of the year is very short, this measure could include expenditure for rent or utility bills, otherwise it will be practically impossible for anyone to collect the amount of receipts required,” the newspaper said. So Venizelos is going to impose a penalty tax on the tax that was taxed because people didn’t produce receipts they didn’t know were needed.
See how handy tax evasion is? “Receipts? We don’t need no stinkin’ receipts!” But Venizelos is sticking to his guns the way Pangalos likes food that sticks to his ribs. “Given Greece’s situation, with its per capita income and its fiscal problem, its tax-free ceiling cannot possibly remain above the European average,” he said, forgetting it was the likes of him that created this situation. Under the revised receipt scheme, taxpayers (not tax evaders) will have to account for at least half of their income – retroactively – so in the next couple of months there will be a stampede to collect them, although since almost no one gives them that will be a tad difficult. There’s one last hope for those who pay taxes though: send the government a bill for $152 billion and demand a receipt.