(ELT News, Limejuice, January 2011)--“Bobbos, get me a drink … and not that muck the grocer makes up in his bathtub.That’s for visitors! I mean a real drink. Bring me the Chivas!”

Bobbos’ head jerked upwards, his mouth wide open. “Not the one we put aside in 2004, the present from that father after his daughter won an Onassis scholarship due to your coaching? I thought we were keeping that for the end of the world.” His master pointedly ignored the sarcasm, simply replying: “Do we have another, featherbrain? Go get it!”

And as Bobbos shambled off, bemused, Scrootzos slowly lowered himself into the comfortable 19th century armchair traded by Granny Stamatia in exchange for a year’s First Certificate teaching for her grand-daughter and stretched out. Then he read the letter from the tax authorities again, straining to understand the small print, as foggy as any on an insurance contract, where the Taxation Department sought to justify why he should pay the equivalent of what he had paid over the last decade once again – but in one lump sum this time.

As Bobbos returned with the precious bottle and Scrootzos snatched it from him with one hand while fiddling to undo the top with the other, he very kindly said: “and bring a glass for yourself, Bobbos, boy! You deserve one, too!” which brought a beaming smile of wonderment to the young man’s face as he raced to get the glasses.

Returning, he placed the glasses carefully on the table and waited. Scrootzos was still reading. Then he lifted his eyes from the letter, raised his arm, elevated the bottle and carefully poured himself a fairly large measure. Bobbos said nothing, but just waited as Scrootzos lifted it to his lips and sipped. A moment later, as if just becoming conscious of Bobbos’ presence, he asked: “well, aren’t you having a drink, then? Go bring the other bottle. This stuff’s not for youngsters like you!”

Bobbos knew it had been too good to be true; that Scrootzos would have offered him some of his precious Chivas, but then the old man suddenly added: “You asked if we were keeping it for the end of the world. Well, this is the end of the world. That is if we are judging by the present performance of the taxman! Push your glass over, boy, you ought to taste this stuff at least once before you meet your maker!” And he filled Bobbos’ glass up to the top.

“Now, do you know what this paper is?” he asked, waving it round his head and, without waiting for any reply, answered his own question. “It’s a tax demand, asking me to pay - in one go - as much tax as I’ve been assessed for in the past decade. In other words, they are doubling our taxes. It’s as though we haven’t been issuing receipts.”

“Oh, but we have, Mr Scrootzos, nobody round here will give you any money with one hand unless they can take a receipt in the other!”

“I know that, boy, I check up on you every night. The point is we have clean books; we can’t do otherwise in our business as the clients want the receipts to minimise their own tax bills. And those profits have been taxed at 30% - it was 32% until 2006 – every single year. And now they are asking for an extra amount, slightly higher than all the tax I’ve paid over the past 10 years. It’s as if all taxes on educational establishments have risen to 60%. Frankly, I don’t know what to do. We just don’t have that kind of money – especially when they ask for it suddenly and without any warning. You know, if they added an extra sum onto your declaration and gave it to you before you submitted the paper, it would be fairer. But the way they do it actually increases the amount you have to pay by not letting you offset your taxable amount against your Social Security, medical and other deductions!”
“But, Mr Scrootzos,” asked Bobbos, “Why do they do this? Why does the Government treat the whole nation as if they were tax-evaders?

“Because they want international opinion on their side, Bobbos. Every citizen’s attitude towards taxes is ambivalent. Nobody likes paying them, but most recognise they are a necessary and inescapable fact of life. We all want the facilities offered by living in a society and somebody has to pay for them. Therefore, most people grudgingly accept to pay what they consider is a fair amount, but fight like hell when they feel they are being overcharged or cheated by the state. Unfortunately, the state is a large concern that controls not only the level of taxes but, to a great degree also, any method by which the citizen can protest this overcharging; by this I mean the police and the law-courts. The Tax Departments of any country can set whatever levels they think they need, and the people, whether they like it or not, just have to accept it.

Now let us look at the levels of taxation in both this country and most others in the EU. Petrol for our cars is nearly 80% tax, fuel for heating is also heavily taxed, we have 23% VAT on books or clothes or bills we pay, including water and electricity. These are all called indirect taxes as they don’t specifically have our name on them, though they are very direct when we have to pay them!

So, of the money actually in our pocket, at least 25% is going to tax. However, before that, another level of taxation, this time called direct taxation, operates on the money we receive and this differs from one person to another according to how much they earn. Theoretically, a millionaire pays much more than a humble school owner…”

Read more articles by Andrew Leech

“Why theoretically, Mr Scrootzos?” interrupted Bobbos,

“Because the truth of the matter is that often the millionaire can hire expensive, expert lawyers who will find ways of reducing that tax-bill to a pittance; perhaps even less than the humble school owner pays. So the State, now cheated out of what it would have earned from the millionaire or large multi-national company, turns the screws on the little guys – like the humble school owner – to make up the shortfall. And, not being able to afford the expensive lawyer, he is forced to pay it. It’s rather like the lion, not being able to catch the deer, making do with 4 rabbits for supper, instead.”

Bobbos grinned: “and the rabbits are not too happy about this, are they? They can’t run as fast as the lion, neither can they fight it!”

Scrootzos nodded. “You’re beginning to understand the system. If you can’t get the big one, increase the pressure on the little ones; it’s easier than learning to run faster! But we have to add something further to this in that the state, in trying to make up its shortfall, just doubles the taxes on those who can’t fight back. In our example of the humble school owner who has already paid 30% tax, he then gets another 30% to pay, with the indirect taxes later taking 25% of whatever he has left. In short, overall, out of every €100 he earns gross, a full €70 will have been paid to the government. And if he, somehow, tries to change the status quo and reduce the level of that bill, he gets called a tax dodger!”

“But what about the rich and the millionaires who use lawyers to get their bills reduced?” interjected Bobbos.

“Ah,” replied the old mam. “They are called astute and respected businessman who are legally applying their minds to tax–avoidance, which is allowed. Apart from the few actual criminals, it is only those who are too weak to fight back who are accused and punished if they try to avoid paying the extra taxes they are saddled with. And, to add insult to injury, in order to get public and international acceptance of what they are doing the state openly maintains that it is collecting taxes on undeclared income, instead of openly admitting the truth: that the little fish are being made to pay for the big ones that got away and the huge sums that various governments have either embezzled or squandered through sheer stupidity! The Economist magazine reckons that the collective government debt in Greece equals $33 million per person; debts that successive governments have accumulated without reference to us, but which they expect us to pay. Yet, the only method they can think of to solve the problem is to starve into extinction the little goslings so that the golden goose can get fatter. Great prognosis for the futur

Part Three: Scrootzos and the Recession: Greek Enlightenment, or Who Benefits?

About the Author

(Posting date 21 January 2011)

HCSencourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/contents.html. To read more fine articles by Andrew Leech, see our special archives section devoted to his works at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveleech.html. For more information about the author, see his short biographical sketch at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/andrewleechbio.html .

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