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160 Germans Will Settle in Greece To Collect Taxes

 The German colonisation of Greece begins earlier and is more shameless than you thought: 160 German tax officers have started ironing shirts and trousers and stuff shampoos* and daily creams* in their luggage for the long adventurous trip in the wild European South.  They will settle in Greece apparently to assist the debt-ridden country in tax collections mechanism. Several German tax officers have already submitted their application for a voluntary position in the tax combat Greek zone. Some of them also speak Greek. I don’t know whether the German tax officers will go door to door to collect taxes, but any association with Roman tax collectors’ behaviour in Asterix village  is free of charge and it could definitely create some fan….  

The German government is prepared to send 160 financial experts to Greece to help the country overhaul its tax collection, the business weekly WirtschaftsWoche reported Saturday.

Hans Bernhard Beus, deputy finance minister, told the magazine that the tax officials are ready to jump in to help the ailing country. They would need to at least speak English, but about a dozen of the volunteers speak Greek, he said.

A large number of the volunteers would come from western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where state Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) told WirtschaftsWoche: “Greece is facing the problems that former East Germany faced in 1990.”

The German government says it wants to help Greece develop a modern tax administration and has started recruiting volunteers for Greek duty. More than 160 German tax officials with English language skills have signed up and about a dozen also speak Greek, a spokesman for the finance ministry said.

The respected magazine Wirtschaftswoche quoted finance ministers in two states, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Hesse, saying they were ready to send German tax officials to Greece even though it was unclear whether such assistance was wanted.

“Greece’s problems today are even worse than the problems faced with former East Germany in 1990,” said Norbert Walter-Borjans, NRW finance minister, referring to the period after German unity when west German tax officials went to the ex-Communist east of the country to help improve tax collection.

“There was resistance then among some eastern Germans against western (tax collectors) but that’s nothing compared to the reservations Greeks will have against Germans,” he added. (Reuters)

**Rumors have it that the German tax collectors will buy all the products they need to cover basic needs in Germany because there the cost of living is cheaper than here.

PS If their East Germans brothers did not want them, why should the Greek would love them? In the context of anti-German sentiment, some Greeks describe modern Germany as the “Fourth Reich”. Are they right or wrong?

 
 
 

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34 comments

  1. All your brouhaha can’t make the fact disappear that a nation with an inefficient and corrupt tax collection agency necessarily will have financial problems. And that it’s the rich that profit much more from tax evasion than the working class folks, so such a screwed up system is socially unfair.

    Aparently you folks don’t care about that. Well, your choice, then bankruptcy and the new drachme, in all its inflationary glory, are waiting right around the next corner. Anyway, it would be a bad idea to send German administration specialists to a country where about 80% of people have a hostile attitude. Imho some other nations should volunteer, if it surprisingly turns out that a majority of Greeks actually want improvements in tax collection. Why should Germany try do all the hard work alone, especially when this so obviously is unpopular among the Greeks?

    • even one German tax collector in every household would not solve the problem, then it’s a problem of political will. Furthermore, with this austerity, tax hikes and deep recession, they would have to put one German tax collector to supervice every transaction taking place in Greek territory. Name me 10 people would not refuse the 23% VAT if they had the chance.

      • Imagine one german (or swedish, dutch, swiss) tax collector for each of the 160 biggest businesses and investors of the country! That could make a lot of difference. But only if the Greek politicians don’t intervene, that’s a reasonable point, of course.

  2. PS If their East Germans brothers did not want them, why should the Greek would love them? In the context of anti-German sentiment, some Greeks describe modern Germany as the “Fourth Reich”. Are they right or wrong? I have been saying this for a while now. The problem I have with this is WHO is letting them in the country? Is this part of the plan with regards to the change of the constitution? WHO, give names, is allowing this to happen? We have, a waste of time and money, elections comming up (if we are allowed that is). Should we not know WHO is throwing us to the wolves.I personaly never wanted to learn german or live in a colony.

    • You don’t happen to be one of the guys who never wanted to be taxed, either, no? Come on, what’s the problem with the language of the tax collector as long as the money goes to the Greek government? Ok, he/she’ll probably not accept your fakelaki. That’s too bad.

      • I don’t have a problem with the language of the tax collector as long as it is Greek and not german. This happens to be our country. By the way did your german people find a new president yet that will have to resign shortly after taking office like the last two? Bestechen exits all over I guess. How is that house he got on the backs of your people? Krimas- what a shame for your people. I guess it is ok to throw stones when you live in a glass house if your german. Na’se kala.

        • Fact is, Greek tax collectors aren’t really doing their job! Your won government recently said so, and afaik the tax data supports their complaint. So, what? Do you only want to shrug your shoulders and ingore that this pushed the state ven deeper into the financial abyss, or are you willing to talk about solutions?

          I totally understand that national sovereignty is a sensistive issue, and I already wrote in another comment that I don’t think it would be a good Idea to send German specialits, regarding the obvious anti-German attitude right now. However, something has to be done, there won’t be any recovery if the state’s finances aren’t improved. And if the Greek officials aren’t up to the task, imho it should be seriously considered to put specialists from other EU nations at work.

          As for the German president, indeed, the German people forced him to resign after stories became public that appeared as if he had traded favors (nobody gifted him a house, but he got a suspisiously cheap credit from “friends”). Actually, I don’t think this is a reason for shame, but of pride! We Germans showed that we won’t tolerate any corruption and consequentially ended this guys carreer. Can you honestly say the same of the Greeks?

  3. KTG, even if you disagree completely, this sounds like the first good idea so far in the two years that the EU is offering “help” to Greece.

    You ask:

    “In the context of anti-German sentiment, some Greeks describe modern Germany as the “Fourth Reich”. Are they right or wrong?”

    Neither right or wrong. They are stupid. By putting 1942 on a level with 2012 I’d say they are insulting those Greeks who have actually been suffering and dying under the German occupation.

  4. Ìt will be fun. Like to place bets on how long it will take before these 160 will get howling mad and run for cover! Not because of any hostility towards them but because they will see first hand and up close the devilish and maddening system the civil service has built here to suck us all dry and to earn a fat paycheck for themselves.
    Asterix? Yes there are a couple of stories in there that would fit like a glove… poor tax-Germans…

    • Indeed. I, too, am not sure if German officials have the nerves to endure Greek reality. They are accustomed to an environment where all i’s are dotted and all t’s are crossed. Dunno if they could adjust.

  5. Isn’t it fact that one of the most corrupt organizations in Greece is the Taxation Department – ie the EFORIA?

    From my experiences with working with people in the civil service in Greece is that obeying the law is an option to be used only when it’s in the best interest of the civil servant.

    This is a great start to putting this country back on track. There are many who applaud this and they are the silent majority. Don’t be fooled by the rhetoric of the average Greek. As one wise Greek put it to me “In Greece we’ll vote for someone just so we can publically chastise them for them for the next few years.”

    • Yes, together with the local building departments the tax-offices rank top in corruption. By putting 160 squeaky clean civil servants into that hell hole that would make this institution suddenly work like clockwork?
      Come on, you do not really believe that, do you?!
      The only solution would be to abolish the whole tax system and all it’s employees, write simple new tax law, educate new civil servants (great to use for that the resources of Germany, Netherlands and so on) and start after one year again.
      In the mean time a large sum of the money now destined for Western European banks should be used to tie Greece over until next year when the new system would be in place.
      Anything else is just bull**** and a total waste of money and resources, paid for by citizens who work hard for it in all European countries.

      • Afaics the tax system will have to be adjusted, but it’s not fundamentally unsound. There should be lower taxes for low incomes, the 8000€ threshold has to be restored, once taxes from the rich are collected and make up for the shortfall. What are you proposing, Antonis? A flat tax, maybe? Afaik, there’s not one such proposal in the world where the numbers actually add up to finance a state. But they all favor the rich.

        As for your idea for a different allocation of money: We should led French, Belgian and German banks fail, with a loss of tens of thousands of jobs, in order to make life easier for Greece? Excuse me please, do you really think that would get public support here? Greece didn’t led Proton Bank close, neither, the government nationalized it instead.

        • No, I am not proposing a flat tax. I am proposing a tax system that is clear, simple and by that diminishes the opportunities for the tax-inspectors to use all the existing unclearness to blackmail us into paying them. Because you are wrong when you say that the tax system here is not fundamentally unsound.
          Don’t know if you have ever experienced a Greek tax audit. It has nothing to do with your books, your accounts or anything real. It has only to do with not having a receipt for those two glasses you use for water, for the extra pen your client has forgot and is lying on your desk. Two examples that will lead to a fine of 2 times 300 euro. The whole system is based on presumption. Presumption of you being a criminal and a cheat. Presumption of what you should earn as a company. When you’re company is running for X-years the tax-system states that your income has to be XXX-euro. And if in reality you had a bad year, you get fined because you should have made XXX-euro, so you are presumed to have cheated.
          The tax-system here is rotten to the core. And as long as nobody outside of Greece seem to be able to get that into their head they will insist on the myth of the fraudulent Greek taxpayer and the taxman that should be helped to get the money. Well, let me say, it is the other way around. We, the people who did everything like we had to and got scr**** time and again by the state should be helped.
          To wrap this up, allow me to quote Miranda Xafa a former Greek International Monetary Fund official. A couple of days ago she said in a debate on the BBC: “The corrupt political establishment led Greece into this mess,” she said. “If you offer the printing press to them, they’ll go back to business as usual.” Maybe now you understand why the Drachma does not seem to be a ‘solution’ to a lot of us?

  6. I think you are looking at a problem without understanding the solution. The Germans want to send tax people there so the Greek goverment is in compliance with the deal for bail out money. However the bail out money isn’t going to the Greek people it’s going to the German and French banks to pay for Greece’s military hardware purchases ie. billion euro German submarines,French fighter aircraft and of course the munitions for all this junk.

    • Yes, German submarines that won’t travel in a straight line and are imbalanced – so basically the throwaways that Germany didn’t want anymore.

      • Ain’t it strange that Greece is the only customer of modern German U-Boats who experienced such huge problems in operating them? Those HDW subs are in very high demand and there are no such complaints from any other nation! Isreal, which uses very similar boats (Dolphin class, a type between the Type 209 and 214 of the Greek navy), even manages to operate them in the Persian Gulf, close to Iran. That would be impossible if they have problems with travelling in a straight line or the balance. Weird, isn’t it?

        Face it, the complaints by the Greek navy are vastly exaggerated, if not outright phony. Fact is, that deal was made in the early 2000s (and included an investment in Greek shipyards, btw!), but at the time of the delivery the Greek government had already run out of money. After long negotiations, a compromise was found, but afaik the full price for the subs still hasn’t been paid. I sure understand the dilemma of the Greek government, but they should have been open about their problems instead of trying to evade the payments by smearing the reputation of that state of the art technology.

  7. All tax collectors (around the world) are corrupt. TAX is theft. No matter how you justify it, it doesn’t diminish that it is the taking of property of others with the threat of force.

    It’s bad that ones own government thinks it has the authority (you’ve never really given consent) to take whatever it wants, it’s worse when a foreign government thinks the same thing.

    As long people stay deluded to the fact TAX is theft it will go one and on and the tax will ever be increased until you are a slave to the debt your government acquired.

    You are the collateral they used to get the loans they acquired and you will be the ones paying this debt and the way they do it is with taxes. (Thievery)

    The government doesn’t stand for the people but for those in power (politicians) you are used for them to have the power and to bear all the ill consequences of their rule. We humans should open our eyes and start believing in self-rule instead of wanting to be ruled. No one else knows best what is best for us. Others only know what is best for them.

  8. Taxes have a redeeming purpose. You pay taxes to the state and you get health, education,roads and other public services. The German collectors will not fix the tax system in order to establish public services for the citizens, but in order that Greece will repay its debt incl high interest rates. In addition, the bailout agreements cause hazardous cuts in health and education etc etc. Do not tell me that tax evasion caused the deep economic crisis and the huge debts of the past.
    So instead of taxes, one should call them something like “Enforced Contributions For Loans Repayment” ECFLR….

    • “Do not tell me that tax evasion caused the deep economic crisis and the huge debts of the past.”
      It’s a fact that Greece enjoyed one of the lowest real tax rates in the EU (that means, taxes actually paid on income) but you don’t want to hear that? What else was responsible for the deficit year after year after year, then? Marsians stealing Greek money and spending it on blond German Fräuleins, maybe?

      =8-$

      • Gray, your ‘facts’ are not facts at all. They are as far from reality as anything here in Greece concerning the state.
        I have paid taxes in several countries over the years. Among them Germany and The Netherlands and I can tell you that the real tax rates where much higher here than in those two countries. Why?
        One factor is that only about 50% of my business related expenditures are accepted as such by the tax-office. Same goes for my income. If I would buy or sell abroad I had in most cases no way to declare that income or to declare the export, because most of the time I got the short message that the invoices could not be accepted because of… (fill in any reason you can think of or never have thought about)
        Therefore, my business was in constant limbo.
        That’s an example of a small business.
        About big multinational companies. THEY had to pay just 20 to 25% tax. That surely is low, isn’t it? Well, couple of years ago (think it was in 2008 KPMG came out with a report on a research they did on this. The results were shocking. Even multinational companies paid on average in real tax around 56% corporate tax instead of the 20-25% they were supposed to. Where the difference was? On paper they did pay 20-25%, but in reality they had to pay so many fines and so many kick-backs to get rid of those fines that the tax-pressure rose by 30%!
        These are facts here in Greece. And these are the realities nobody outside the country seems to be wanting to take into account when judging the Greek population in general.

        • Antonis, how do you explain this:
          http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/48/27/41498733.pdf

          Sorry, but I don’t know you personally, so imho the OECD data has a bit higher significance than your personal experience. If both you and the OECD are right, I can only conclude that Greek tax collectors steal money. Well, not that I would be surprised about that…

          • keeptalkinggreece

            define: ‘steal money’. there are many ways to do it, you know…

          • First: And where did the OECD get those statistics from? Yes from Greece. And what happened in 2009? Big scandal that non of the Greek official statistics had ANYTHING to do with reality. Remember that budget deficit of Greece that stood officially at, what was it, 4,5% but in reality was closer to 15%?
            Second: most reports of the OECD go back to the member countries, who can amend and correct the reports before they are published. So much for objectivity of those OECD figures.
            You don’t seem to be able to get the reality that nothing is what it seems when concerning Greece. And when I quote KPMG you can count on it that it is not my personal set of figures that company was using. And the whole point of their report was also that the official tax figures and the real ones were not even in the same universe.

          • Antonis, you generally have a point, but in this case the data can be verified. See, of course the tax numbers must correspond to the numbers in the budget presented to parliament. Of course, the predictions won’t even closely match, but why should the government so seriously underestimate the income as would be necessary if it really was among the highest in the EU? That doesn’t make much sense. And if it was the highest in the Eu, why should there then have been such a huge deficit year after year? That doesn’t make much sense, neither. Somehow the picture you paint, that both the taxes AND the deficit have been higher than in the official statements don’t make much sense to me. Either, or, but both?

  9. Alex, all unnecessary tax is theft. Even in the UK now, I would say about 50% of state spend is not really needed for the core functions of government.

  10. Here is a another take on German tax collectors in Greece. Both the Cretans (in Crete) and the Greeks in Corfu seek autonomy from Athens. The reason: Crete and Corfu contribute more to Athens for the running of Greece than they receive in return when the national income is re-distributed across the regions. Therefore the more the German “Supervisory” tax inspectors grow the Greek state coffer’s through more efficient collection, the more the incensed Greeks in Corfu and Crete will become to demand greater regional autonomy (some want independence). Such a scenario could lead to the break up of Greece. A nice diplomatic solution to bankruptcy by the current Hellenic Republic?

  11. Taxes are a required fact of life and we wouldn’t have a problem if the system worked properly. If everyone paid the right amount according to their earnings, so the more you earn the more tax you pay – not the more you earn the more you hide and bribe to get away with it. In most civilized european countries people get a tax rebate if it’s found they have paid too much. In Greece, even if you can prove you have paid too much you never get the rebate – they keep it from you for the following year’s payments but it never ends and so you never see the money you shouldn’t have paid. It all starts at central government and with the tax inspectors themselves that they stop taking cash in hand bribes to cover the millionaires with their villas and offshore stashes. They have to look after the common man and make it work.

  12. @Gray
    Time and again we see here that the budget is based on nothing, that expenditures are not monitored and barely recorded. And when the government runs out of money it simply did borrow more. I distinctly remember a ND-Finance Minister (can’t get the name… not the last one, but the one before that) who was proudly telling in interviews how they borrowed money on future income, and how great that was…
    Other big problems are: tax is not raised on real income, but on incomes you are supposed to earn. Bad if you earn less, but wonderful if you earn more; Nearly all ministries have Secret Funds that are not accountable to anyone. Just a couple of examples that might start to explain why here figures never add up.
    Look, Gray, I started out as you. Getting in here with a picture of Greece that was formed while living in other countries. I saw corruption in northern Europe. I experienced bureaucracy, fraud and much more that was here too. But in all those countries there was either a independent judiciary, or independent tax officers, or independent police, or quality press or… and so on. And there was, most of the time money earned enough to pay for the sins. And I could not imagine in my wildest dreams that Greece had non of the independent bodies and almost no quality press. And Greece certainly had no money that it had earned to pay for it’s sins. In olden times Greece would devaluate the Drachma like mad. But the last 12 years that was not possible anymore. And instead of chancing the ways things were done, there just was a continuing of the old ways…

    Something else, but maybe not, have you read this? http://media.transparency.org/nis/cogs/assets/ge/pdf/NIS_Executive%20Summary_TI%20Greece.pdf It’s the report from Transperency International about Greece. Think you might find it interesting.

    • keeptalkinggreece

      that was in 2007, the borrowed money was 14.4 billion euro and that is the bond that expires on March 22 (?) and threatens to bankrupt Greece. Thtere was a report on To Vima a coouple of weeks ago.

    • iaourti iaourtaki

      Quality press?
      Greece gots the strongest indymedia worldwide (main reason the authorities try to shut it down or cut electricity off like around 12th of Feb (“3 days of anger”) and there is no other country on this planet where complete communiques of urban guerilla groups gets published. If that’s not quality it looks like there is a market for and the taste of the audience results in more free press freedom.

    • Yeah, I’ve already this report, but, still, thanks, Antonis. It’s really a huge, ugly, stinking mess. Sigh…

      Where to start with reforming the country? What’s the best point to attach a lever in order to move things into the right direction? What do you think?

      • Yes it is an awful big mess. And I have to admit that I am totally at a loss now what would be that point you are asking for… I simply do not know anymore.
        Sometimes, just sometimes, in a deep dark night, I get the thought that only an ‘enlightened’ dictator would bring a solution. But then, there is no such thing. Same goes for almost any exterior intervention. A Commissioner for a year? A troika? A… whatever you choose there is no guarantee it will be to the benefit of the Greek people. As we see at the moment every country is acting solely for their own narrow interests.
        So the solution should come from within. But I don’t see from where it should come. The whole society is one big Gordian Knot of (self-)interest. Business, Unions, Cooperatives, Political parties, politicians, academics, artists…
        The only chance there would be is for holding off elections for one year. Because that would give a chance to get new people and organisations of the ground to form a credible alternative for the old nomenklatura and get a caretaker government. But it won’t happen. Because the old garde wants snap-polls, so they can claim legitimacy for the next 4 years. Not to put things in order for the common Greek. No only because they hope in 4 years time things will have settled down and the old system with them in it, is still standing. And the most bitter thing is that about 70% of the Greeks will go along with that (if we might believe the polsters).