Wednesday, 28 November 2012 00:00

GREECE The Wealthy Still Don’t Pay Taxes

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Average Greeks are reeling under the strict austerity measures passed in order to balance the country’s budget. Top earners, on the other hand, continue to evade the tax man. Most of the self-employed in Greece significantly underreport their earnings, whereas shipping magnates enjoy generous exemptions.
The principle of tax justice may be enshrined into the Greek constitution, but it has become increasingly obvious that not all Greek taxpayers are created equal. Currently, the government in Athens is preparing yet another round of harsh austerity measures, severely testing the cohesion of both the coalition and society. Already, such measures in combination with tax hikes have slashed average household income in Greece by half since the beginning of the crisis. Measures now planned will see pensions sink by 25 percent.
At the same time, though, a small elite of wealthy Greek ship owners is fighting to defend its tax-free status—also, ironically enough, enshrined in the constitution. Meanwhile, other moneyed Greeks, including doctors, lawyers and engineers, continue to systematically avoid taxes. According to a recent study, seven out of 10 self-employed Greeks significantly underreport their earnings.
Doctors lead the way: Their real income is almost 2.5 times higher than the amount they declare. Lawyers are not far behind, with economists, journalists, and those in the entertainment business rounding out the top slots on the list. “Tax evasion is not limited to the wealthy,” the study finds. “But tax evasion does increase in wealth, substantially.”
How, though, given Greece’s attempts in recent years to shore up tax revenue, is this still possible? A lawyer in Thessaloniki who wished to remain anonymous says it is really quite simple to cheat on taxes. “Until recently, there was a minimum fee of €300 for presenting a case in court. Big-shot lawyers would charge their clients thousands of euros, yet would only give a receipt for €300. I know of wealthy lawyers who have been in the business for 30 years who do not pay a single euro in taxes. Some of them even boast of getting tax returns.”
The current government is not completely ignoring the issue. Athens is currently considering the establishment of a 100-strong unit to go after wealthy tax evaders. That they will find success seems doubtful. Out of 5,000 cases of suspected of tax evasion gleaned from Greek bank records, only 334 have been conclusively settled. And with Greece’s notoriously slow bureaucracy and judiciary, it could be years before the state actually receives any extra cash from wealthy tax-dodgers.
-www.spiegel.de, 1 November 2012

Arno's Commentary

The term “democracy” was born in Greece; the rule of the people by the people. It was implemented in about the 5th century B.C., in the city state of Athens. The target of democracy is to create equality in opportunities and duties for all citizens. What becomes clear from this article is that the highly paid elite earn the benefits from opportunity, but do not fully participate in its duties such as paying taxes. Doubtless, however, this will change as years go by. Electronic information and documentation will ultimately catch up with those who refuse their civic duty to pay taxes.
For the Greeks and many other European nations, as well as the United States, generous entitlements are allotted to the rich. One person convicted of tax fraud infamously stated, “Only the little people pay taxes.”
Greece and many other nations that have not fully implemented a functioning bureaucratic infrastructure to collect all taxes due, will eventually have to follow through on what we know is the mark of the beast.
When Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful to give tribute (taxes) unto Caesar, or not?” He answered, “Render…unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:17, 21).
(For more on this subject, read How Democracy Will Elect the Antichrist, Item 1064.)
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