Athens, December 29, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency
By Olga Mavrou
Many Greeks dressed up as Santa danced in the streets of Ioannina and Chania in Greece, pretending everything is normal and that they are in a festive mood, but the truth is most of them are quite depressed with the economic situation of their households. Thousands of Greeks at the same time lined up today in the banks in order to pay their extra and regular taxes before the 31st of December, since this is the deadline tax authorities pose –after this date, citizens who haven’t paid their taxes, face quite high surcharges, increments, add-on and fines. So they patiently wait on queue in the banks to pay taxes for the houses they (or their grandfathers) bought 20 years ago, taxes for their cars (that they also might have bought a decade ago) and of course pay also the monthly payment of their regular taxes, which most of them can not pay in cash and so they repay it by monthly instalments.
The Finance Ministry hopes to collect in the next days from all those taxes approximately 2 billion euros.
The reason that citizens are queuing up patiently to pay is the surcharges and fines that the government threatens them with. The “car tax” for example is doubled if the payment is overdue. The other taxes, if paid after the deadline, have lower but also significant surcharges –there is a 1% monthly increase for the rest arrears. And even if some Greeks were willing to delay the payment and pay eventually the surcharge, then they would be facing another problem: when one delays his tax payments, he loses all the comparative benefits (less surcharges) of his debt regulation. So if par example one had his tax debt regulated in 100 installments and he delayed just one of them, he loses the arrangement at once and not only he must come up with the amount in cash but he also faces serious surcharges even from 2 years back!
And then… here comes 2016
On February Greeks will have to submit their next tax return and start paying by spring. Those who managed to earn more then 30,000 euros during 2015, will be obliged to pay more tax on their revenues and an increased “solidarity tax” –the latter was 1,4% and it rose to 2%. And if their income is over 50.000 euros, then the solidarity tax is 6% (it was 2,8%) People who rent their apartments will also pay higher taxes too –they used to give 11% (on their rental revenue) and now they are asked to pay 15%. Owners of small enterprises or self-employed will be asked also to pay higher percentage of the tax of their… future income in advance and this year instead of 55% of the tax, they will have to pay 75% of the tax of the income… to come. The same applies nexy year for farmers, because they will be asked for the first time to pay in advance 75% of the tax.
Pensioners are not any happier since there are cuts on the way and employees are disappointed too since many corporations pay them with great delay (20% of their salary now and the rest… well… sometime in the future). But employers and owners of enterprises are not any happier either, since (with the exception of tourism and big corporations) most of them have to deal with quite disappointing turnover.
Greeks need a miracle to make the ends meet, since its not only the taxes they have to worry about. Petrol at 1,5per liter, cigarettes at 4 euros, electricity 100 a month, internet bills at 20 euros per month, let alone mobile phones, renting a house (another 300 euros a month), and then… it’s the food. One has to eat! Bread at 2 euros a kilo, milk at 1,2, pasta at 2, meat at 10, oil at 6, cheese at 12, all these food items sum up to 400 a month just for one person to eat…. And if someone adds to the cost of the food, the bills and the rent he pays for an apartment, he concludes that he needs at least 1,000 euros a month just for surviving. If the cost for a car is added, or some fan once a week, or smoking, he must come up with at least 1,300 a month, not to add also the “extra expenses”, unplanned problems to be addressed, the ones we all often have to face during a year, for a health issue, for a repair of the car or the house, a “dream” for vacations and holidays, a gift to your girlfriend or boyfriend, all those “luxuries” that all Europeans deal with without any special consideration… But then the salary of many employees in Greece is only 400 euros and many of them don’τ get even that since employers face their one difficulties and delay due payments. Many Greeks after all are unemployed and live thanks to the pension of their grandfather or their mother and in many families of four, only one works and support the rest….
Santa must feel quite baffled this year as far as it concerns the Greeks….