In The Netherlands
Posted on: Jun 17, 2013

Hellas: a vast mental institution

Harmonia Coaching

This article is also available in Greek

I don't know what Konstantinos Karamanlis was thinking when he said this phrase, but now I certainly understand what he meant. Reason in this country has been lost and is now completely missing and unfortunately, no one is looking for it!

I received a call about a month ago from my father and he told me: "The accountant said that you need to file your Taxes!". At first I laughed, I said "father, are you a bit dizzy? What have I got to do with the Greek state or the Tax office? It has been 7 years since I left Greece". "Well, what can I tell you, thats what he told me", he replied. "Well, I think he must be looking to pocket 40€ more, but don't worry about it", I told to reassure him. I wasn't reassured though because like Napoleon said, human stupidity is invincible and eternal, and I do feel that they are capable of anything at the Finance ministry. So I "researched" it, and here is what had happened:

Within the raging battle that the Government is now laying on tax evasion (as if), the geniuses at the Finance Ministry had a brilliant idea. Up to now all those who were not obliged to pay taxes were not obliged to file their income tax forms. Now though that the Taxable income has gone down to 3000€ there must not be so many people that have such a low yearly income, except the unemployed. Oops, I forgot those unemployed have reached 27%, so there are after all about 1 or 2 million of people under the nontaxable amount. So the wonder kids at the Finance Ministry thought: Why don't we force them to file their tax forms as well? We might catch something good!

So, in a legislative act/salad act of April, they "attached" a small modification on the Income Tax Code that was no longer than a line of text: all Greeks that have reached their 18th year of age, regardless if they are to pay tax or not, they have to file their tax forms. A great gift for all the accountants, don't you think? They'll do great business. +30% tax forms this year. Because you see, the average Greek might nowadays be a University graduate, but still he can never do his own taxes. Complicated things, best left for accountants. Always for a price of course.

The Golden boys of the Finance Ministry though never imagined, or yet worse, they didn't even care about the after effects of this modification. One of those effects, my friends, is the following: I (and along me you can imagine how many more like me) a Greek in the Netherlands, who had the bad luck to issue a Tax number (AFM) because when I was 20 years old I had to get a drivers license and without having any property or income in Greece, am now in danger of being penalized if I don't even submit a null (only filled with zeroes) Tax form!

Imagine if I had a fight with my parents and we weren't on speaking terms or if -knock on wood- they were not around, I wouldn't have known anything and I might have gotten in trouble! The adventures though, don't end here. As I call the Tax office, I find out, that on their books (yes they use books), I am still a citizen of Greece and thus, besides my Tax forms, I have to file also 3000€ worth of receipts!!!

I get over the stroke and I ask them "is there a chance I could avoid that if I prove that I am an expat of Netherlands?". I don't think so because you should have done that months ago, he says (note that the law changed the past April), but you have nothing to lose by trying. But the story doesn't end there: The consulate is refusing to give me a proof that I am an expat here, because they say that they do not issue these kind of certificates (Note that the Paris consulate has that certificate on its website) and they suggest a procedure that with all the costs for certificates and authorizations will cost me around 60€! Neither the Tax office nor the consulate guarantee that these are the right procedures because 2 weeks before the end of the deadline for the Tax forms the Ministry still haven't even sent out a circular (egkyklios) explaining the details of this whole procedure. And as if that was not enough, I have to go through this whole process, every year, because all those papers I have to collect are valid for 1 year only. Suddenly, the accountant's 40€ didn't look so much any more...

Eventually I stopped concerning myself with all that and am now looking for a way to renounce my Greek citizenship. Otherwise you cannot escape the Greek state, even on the other side of the planet!

Harmonia Coaching
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Georgios Andronikidis

I am a psychologist who loves travelling, reading books, listening to music, watching movies and theatre, tasting different cuisines but especially writing (almost about anything) when I don’t coach and I don’t read stuff regarding Psychology. I am passionate and I always tell the truth. By the age of 50 I will be an owner of a bookshop (I hate e-readers!) and I will have a small house with a big garden in Chalkidiki!

Read more by me at:
Tis fanis tis fanike oraio
Ms Psyche blog