This had never happened before – at least not in Greece: that citizens take public servants as hostages and clash with riot police over tax evasion. There had been some incidents where residents of small communities attacked tax inspectors throwing stones. But clashing with police? Cutting water and electricity to a police station where tax inspectors took refugee? No.
Such scenes of unprecedented motivation took place just a couple of days ago on the beautiful and picturesque island of Hydra, an island in the Saronic Gulf, not far from Athens.
On Friday night, financial crime units (SDOE) detained the owner of a famous fish tavern for allegedly failing to issue receipts to customers and thus evading to pay Value Added Tax of 23% to the state. The owner claimed that he would issue the receipts when the customers would pay the end bill. But SDOE had a different opinion onthe issue.
When the tax inspectors took the restaurant owner to the police station, angry residents took the station under siege: They threw stones, firecrackers and flares at the police station and even cut the water and electricity supply.
Video Hydra incidents (Mega TV)
On Saturday, the state sent riot police to the island in order to ‘free’ the tax inspectors from hostage. The riot police reached Hydra with a ship from the Navy. The still angry residents tried to hinder the riot police with the effect that the latter fired teargas to disperse the crowd.
Moving from dock to dock at Hydra harbour, the residents and supporters of the fish restaurant owner tried to prohibit that he is taken to Athens with the boat. And be taken to the prosecutor.
But the will and power of law were stronger than the residents’ outrage.
According to local media, eye witness defended their actions, saying that they had hardly work and that the tax inspectors “try to finish them off” by forcing them to issue receipts and paying the V.A.T. “We have hardly any work and yet we get arrested,” a bar owner said.
Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar
The case of restaurant, tavernas and bars owners not wanting to issue receipts is not unique for the island of Hydra and its 2,700 inhabitants.
SDOE found that seven out of ten businesses had committed tax evasions. In inspections conducted 6-23 July 2012, SDOE carried out 1,410 tax controls. 805 ‘offenders’ had committed 22,435 tax offences.
During tax inspections in the first two weeks of August, in 600 restaurants, bars, tavernas and other tourist businesses, SDOE found some 2,010 tax irregularities. In the majority of the cases, no receipts were issued.
If only the customer would profit from the tax evasion. Then the tax evasion tradition wants that the businessman charges the VAT to the end price of the product, without paying the VAT to the state.
Just recently a friend came back from an island of the Cyclades group. All businesses were issuing receipts and swearing at the same time. Why they issued receipts? Because SDOE had handed out a juicy penalty to a local souvlaki tavern for not issuing receipts. The news reached every businessman on the island who started to issue receipts, until the SDOE left.
Many businessmen in favorite tourist destinations refrain from issuing receipts. they blame the economic crisis and recession saying that their only chance to get some income is the tourist season. Why should they pay the Value Added Tax to the state?
Unfortunately they do not realize that if they do not pay the VAT, horizontal cuts in pensions and wages are inevitable.
Bad tax morals in a bankrupt country. Nothing changes. And things get worse.