(ELT News)--Today, we return to the well known Athens language school in Hades St, situated in the relatively obscure and down-at-heel locality of Ano Ftocheia to see how its owner and director of studies, the pioneering academic Drachmophilos Scrootzos, is coping with the new electronic methods of submitting the annual tax return.
His assistant, Bobbos, brightly breezes in, with a large smile for the weather that had changed from a sulky grey winter scowl to a half apology for a spring day. “Hallo, Mr Scrootzos, How are you, today? Did you get everything done at the tax office this morning?” His master gave him a baleful look, before replying with a strangled ‘Harrumph,’ sound, quickly followed by the slightly acidic “yes, in a manner of speaking, if you understand their latest methods of operation, which I am not sure they have learnt themselves, yet!”
Bobbos just looked on silently and waited. He knew from experience that, like a volcano, Scrootzos always pushed forth a few pithy comments before erupting into a full blown diatribe of his current woes that usually referred to something financial; and tax declaration submission time had always been a particularly unfortunate time of the year for those around Drachmophilos, who had to calmly bear his scathing comments and nod politely.
“I went down to the tax office to ask why they hadn’t sent me any forms to fill in and they informed me that no forms would be sent to businesses, this year, as everything had to be submitted electronically. I politely asked them how I would know how to submit if I didn’t have a little booklet to show me what to do and give a few examples. They then said I didn’t need to know what to do, that my accountant would do it for me. To which I replied I didn’t have an accountant, but did it all myself. Then I was told that according to new laws that had just come into effect, I had to have an accountant, whether or not I needed one!”
“But Mr Scrootzos, you have never used an accountant. You told me you sacked the first one 30 years ago when he came in drunk and submitted your income as expenditure and vice versa; and then you got rid of the second after he failed to turn up on three occasions!”
“True, Bobbos. With a small business that only needs an accountant for an hour a month, few good professionals want to bother with you, so it’s much easier to learn the job, yourself, and do the accounts at a time that suits you. In any case, you’ve still got to prepare everything, so for a small business using an accountant is rather like doing the accounts twice. All I have ever needed was a good person to check over what I had done and advise me of any legal changes. Now the government is forcing me to waste time and money by paying someone else to do what I am just as capable of doing alone. As if the average small business owner was not able to add 2 and 2 together! Pshaw … such rubbish! And if their internet tax programme is anything like the IKA one I’m not going to understand a word of it. They take good Greek, scramble it into an omelette to make up new electronic words, and serve it up in a totally unrecognisable form! Then, when you make a mistake, instead of pointing out what you’ve done, the programme merely bleats “error, error, error;” and you are left trying to work out what you’ve done wrong, with no help from the tax department whatsoever! The software developers the state employs have a long way to go before becoming human!”
“You know Mr Scrootzos, with everything being done electronically you are soon going to become a non-person if you don’t have an internet address. Not having one, today, is almost as bad as not having an identity card. At this rate we’ll soon be forced to carry mini-electronic notebooks in our pockets at any time we venture out of our houses … or electronic identity tags!”
“You’re right, my boy. It’s a new twist on George Orwell’s 1984; but with a vengeance! The government said it would create new jobs and it’s done it: we now need thousands of electronic accountants and relatively half-baked software developers! Once upon a time civil servants had the unenviable job of shoving piles of mildewed paper from one desk to another. Now they merely transfer mounds of semi-corrupted Excel files from one PC terminal to the other! Blame the Byzantines with their mania for destroying all learning from the ancient world. If we’d been able to build on the learning of mathematicians such as Archimedes, we would have solved the software problem years ago in a very civilised manner and received royalties from the rest of the world, too!”
(Posting date 23 May 2011. Reposted 20 June 2011. Reprinted with permission from ELT News, Limejuice, May 2011)
Andrew Leech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a former contributing editor of the Greek-American Review of New York. He was born in Cairo, Egypt, of a British father (Lt Colonel British Army) and Greek mother (Marika Calogeropoulou: ballerina, teacher & choreographer). Educated in Britain, he moved to Greece in 1971 while conducting research into the language learning strategies of young children. He returned to Britain in 1977 for postgraduate study. In 1981, he worked in Greece for the Cararigas Schools as Director of Studies before starting his own school in 1984. He also became Director of Studies and Deputy Headmaster of the prestigious St Lawrence College for an interim period. Developing a keen interest in journalism in 1990, Leech became first an internationally known educational correspondent for ELT News and, later, a diplomatic correspondent for Athens News, focusing on visiting dignitaries and heads of state. He is a longstanding member of the Society of Authors and is also a lecturer in Journalism and Communications at Deree College, Athens. For more information about Andrew Leech or to read more of his fine articles, see his brief biography at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/andrewleechbio.html or visit the archival section of HCS devoted to his works at http://www.helleniccomserve.com/archiveleech.html .
HCS encourages readers to view other articles and releases in our permanent, extensive archives at the URL http://www.helleniccomserve.com/contents.html.