My latest foray to Greece and its islands was fab as usual. The September sun was shining, the sea was warm and the public discourse dominated by the tax modernisation requested by the EU, the ECB and the IMF (the ‘troïka’).
The subject was the abolition of 199 taxes towards third parties imposed by the Greek state. Most of them are obscure taxes towards pension funds belonging to strongly unionised professions. Why, asks the troïka, should citizens contribute to pension funds they don’t belong to? A good question.
Amazingly, a tax of 0.495% on petrol sold which used to go to the Petrol Station Workers Fund – a job used to be for life, I suppose – was recently abolished.
Such obscure taxes were generally unknown to the public at large and familiar only to accountants with specialised knowledge. They are, however, estimated to amount to €10 billion annually.
But they are quite fun. Yes, taxes can be fun, if they are Greek. Here are some examples:
- From every marriage and divorce licence €2 go to the Directorate Of Catechism And Orthodox Testimony (a publishing and missionary organisation) of the Greek church. Now I can finally understand why in Greece you are allowed to divorce and remarry three times.
- 32% of 5% of the ticket income from football, basketball, volleyball, handball and water polo match tickets goes to the Police Accident Insurance Fund.
- For every 170g (not ml) of beer produced in Greece, one cent goes to the Chemists’ Insurance Fund.
- For every kg of flour produced, 1.6cents goes towards the Baker’s Pension Fund.
- Seven (old, pre-euro) drachmas per kg of candle wax produced goes towards the Orthodox Parish Church Fund.
And my favourite:
Any uncollected wins from horseracing bets go to the Police Welfare Fund.
Who says, modern Greece isn’t the true heir of the Byzantine Empire and its bureaucracy?