The im­pro­vi­sa­tion show that won’t stop

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PAN­TELIS BOUKALAS

“Acam­paign for re­ceipts” was how the gov­ern­ment and the me­dia dubbed a se­ries of in­cen­tives to con­vince cit­i­zens to de­mand re­ceipts in a bid to tackle tax eva­sion. The gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced laws, made prom­ises and is­sued threats and as­sur­ances. It claimed in ev­ery tone of voice that the cam­paign was well thought out and that it was con­fi­dent of the re­sults. It pro­claimed its be­lief that this was the best way to bring tax jus­tice, to bring a flow of cash into state cof­fers and to pla­cate the de­mands of Greece’s len­ders at the Euro­pean Union and the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. The plan was, in fact, pre- sented with great fan­fare as only one of a se­ries of mea­sures to bring or­der to the Greek tax sys­tem, which in­cluded search­ing for, track­ing down, ap­pre­hend­ing and dis­grac­ing the usual big play­ers, whose great­ness is to a large ex­tent the re­sult of struc­tural short­com­ings in the tax col­lec­tion mech­a­nism or out­right tax dodg­ing. De­spite cus­tom­ary skep­ti­cism to­ward the state and the sus­pi­cion with which such prom­ises of equal­ity are re­garded, hun­dreds of thou­sands of house­hold across the coun­try were con­vinced that some­thing may ac­tu­ally come of it all and that for once, maybe the bill wouldn’t be picked up by the same peo­ple who al­ways pick it up. So, they started col­lect­ing re­ceipts. They placed a box some­where in the house, in a spot where vis­i­tors could see it and start up a dis­cus­sion about the plan, and they squir­reled away their re­ceipts. Some just tossed them in, oth­ers had them or­ga­nized by month and oth­ers sorted them with a col­lec­tor’s pas­sion: re­ceipts for gro­ceries, meals, books, car re­pairs and even a few of those rare spec­i­mens from elec­tri­cians, plum­bers and doc­tors. At one point we even saw ads on the In­ter­net posted by var­i­ous clever ped­dlers say­ing they were sell­ing re­ceipts in bulk at 10 or 20 per­cent of their to­tal value. One year later, the “re­ceipt cam­paign” hit a wall, as even those who came up with and pro­moted it have to ad­mit. And, keep­ing with tra­di­tion, we are now hear­ing new prom­ises that the ini­tia­tive will be re­viewed and new threats that there will be pun­ish­ments for those who ei­ther through wile or habit found the loop­holes in the law and, in­stead of pay­ing up, will end up re­ceiv­ing money from a state that was quite cer­tain that it had found a great and hon­est way to get back on its feet. In the the­ater the say­ing is “Tonight we im­pro­vise.” In the Greek state, the say­ing should be “We al­ways im­pro­vise.”

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