I wonder what a UK trained accountant would make of the Greek way of doing business. Especially one who was auditing the accounts of our local post office.
The man who runs the post office doesn’t seem to like giving change and tries to avoid it whenever he can. On a recent visit I wanted to buy 2 stamps costing €1.40 in total, and offered a €5 note. He asked if I had change, which I didn’t. So rather than give me €3.60 change he gave me the stamps for free. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened, nor are we the only ones it happens to. Occasionally he will tell me to pay next time, but not always.
This is a post office, it’s supposed to have money – and it does. People pay all sorts of bills here, and obviously buy stamps and pay for other postage. This man has a till full of change. There’s no excuse for his actions. I didn’t give him a €50 note; I offered just a small amount of money over the cost of my purchase. If I’d offered a €2 coin he would have given me change: he can manage to part with a few cents but not his euros.
I’m assuming someone, somewhere expects our post office to produce accounts, which are surely supposed to balance. How can this happen if our postmaster keeps giving away stamps for free?
When we bought our land there were various payments included in the costs. The lady in the local notary’s office who produced the paperwork, for example, was given something like €50. I’m sure she gets paid as an employee, but if she picks up this type of ‘tip’ for every case she works on she probably makes a fair amount on top of her salary.
And of course there were the ‘usual’ payments to people in the official departments, to make sure the paperwork was moving along speedily.
A friend was telling me the other day that some tavernas only produce paper receipts when they know there’s a tax inspector in the area. At other times it’s all verbal so there’s no way of knowing whether all the money received from customers went into the till.
Years ago Ken ran a carpet and upholstery cleaning business in the UK, and some of his customers paid in cash. The tax inspectors went through his books carefully to make sure he accounted for every penny he received, checking payments against his appointments. If they thought he wasn’t declaring all his cash receipts they could estimate them, based on those he had declared, and charge tax on the notional amount. And, other than asking people not to pay in cash, there was no way he could prove that he had accounted for all the cash he received.
There’s a lot of publicity about corruption in high places at present: UK politicians’ expense claims, free holidays for businessmen and so on. Here in Greece corruption at the highest levels of government and business also gets noticed. But this is a country that still has many practices that encourage people to under declare their income, personal or business. It seems that as long as things are kept at a reasonable level, and no-one gets too greedy, this will continue to be accepted.
If even part of that unpaid tax was recovered maybe there would be more progress on projects that are urgently needed, such as a local hospital or a completed motorway, or more firefighting resources. But this is probably naive of me, given the stories I’ve also heard about public money being spent on the pet projects of local politicians rather than the things that are most needed.
And even the greedy are catered for:
I’ve heard of a developer who was taken to court for taking a client’s money but failing to deliver the services agreed. A guilty verdict resulted in a prison sentence, and I believe the guilty party actually went to prison – but not for long. He was able to return the client’s money and get out of prison after just a few weeks, presumably pay a fine?
Not much incentive there to keep to the straight and narrow then?