Much is made of the meme “sure if the Greeks only paid their taxes…” . The argument, such as it is, elides into the “sure theyre all crooks” and “they should never have been in the EU”. It tips over into racism easily. So what is the case?
With thanks to @alea, some figures.
In total the Greek Revenue are owed €76b as of end 2013 tax due. That, by the way, is an estimate. Its not a tablet of stone. They estimate that 3670000 people and 447000 companies owe some tax. And yes, people should pay tax. But….
3,174,000 people and 357447 companies owe up to €3000. Thats €10.5b. 2000 people and 4000 companies owe over €1m each. Thats a minimum of €6b. 494000 people and 85553 companies owe between €3000 and €1m. They cant owe much more than 50k or the math doesnt work. . So, tax evasion is both endemic and concentrated.
Put another way – 87% of the tax is owed by 15% of the defaulters, with a minimum of 8% owed by 0.15% of the defaulters. I strongly suspect three things.
It is, I submit, easier to get 6000 to pony up than 3.5m to do so. And in doing so the message goes out. Greece needs some Lester Piggots.
Here are some surmises…
a) these 6000 top defaulters are well connected to the greek establishment. And that establishment is well connected to the elites in other countries. Remember that when reading newspapers or watching sockpuppers on blogs.
b) many of the 4000 companies are state owned or connected thus any tax collection would, in fiscal terms, be a wash
c) none of the 2000 top persons and very few of the 494k middle defaulters are Syriza voters and supporters. Remember, about the only thing that Greece and Germany agree on is that the Greek tax system is in need of reform and that Syriza are mandated to do some serious housecleaning.
Update: as noted on twitter, this is also of course presuming that these people could pay tax. Many of the companies and individuals owing tax assessed are defunct or bankrupt.