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Germany offers to send tax men to Greece

The Local · 25 Feb 2012, 15:10

Published: 25 Feb 2012 15:10 GMT+01:00

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Hans Bernhard Beus, deputy finance minister, told the magazine that the tax officials are ready to jump in to help the ailing country. They would need to at least speak English, but about a dozen of the volunteers speak Greek, he said.

A large number of the volunteers would come from western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where state Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) told WirtschaftsWoche: “Greece is facing the problems that former East Germany faced in 1990.”

Walter-Borjans warned that the Greeks would likely have even more reservations about the Germans offering advice than the East Germans did about their western counterparts coming in after reunification. That could also be he said, because of “inappropriate signals” coming from Germany regarding the implementation of Greek austerity measures.

The central German state of Hesse is also prepared to send in volunteers, the state’s Finance Minister Thomas Schäfer of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) said.

“In helping Greece, we should also entertain the idea of bringing in retired tax collectors, because considerable practical experience could be used here,” he told WirtschaftsWoche.

In January, the Greek government released a 170-page list of 4,000 tax evaders, who owe the state approximately €15 billion. The Greek government under Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has announced that it will be seriously pursuing tax evaders.

Story continues below…

WirtschaftsWoche reported that, according to confidential report of the EU Commission’s Directorate-General for Taxation, the Greek government has €63 billion in claims against its largest tax evaders.

DPA/The Local/mbw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:35 February 25, 2012 by Bushdiver
Ahh. Those greedy little German tax people from steuerland. (Deutschland). Greece is a good place to send them. Send them anywhere. Just out of Germany.
18:15 February 25, 2012 by Michel_Berlin
"send them out of Germany"

@ Bushdiver

Did you nothing learn from the current drama?

Do you want Germany to end up like Greece???

Before I again grumble about the taxes I better compare wealthy, well run, functioning high tax Germany with that joke of a country Greece and what tax evasion comes to in the end...
18:25 February 25, 2012 by derExDeutsche
Wait just one second! Keep those collectors where they are needed most, in Germany!

I'm of the mind that the people of Germany aren't paying enough taxes. With all the German rhetoric of glorious taxes and magnificent regulation. Let Them pay their fair share.

Higher taxes, more regulation and more tax enforcement efforts are a sure sign of a just future for Germany.
18:26 February 25, 2012 by Michel_Berlin
Well...our country won't go broke that way...that's for sure!

Our children don't have to be humiliated and going with the tin pot in hand from country to country begging some little crumbs..
20:28 February 25, 2012 by The-ex-pat
The only answer to tax evasion in Germany is prison. How many free prison spaces are there in Greece. Can you send the entire population to prison. Will that not that have an adverse effect on the financial recovery of the country. Tax pays for the prison service, if every one is in prison, who pays for it..................lol
20:54 February 25, 2012 by TheCrownPrince
As if sending 160 financial experts would change anything in Greece. How very naive; sending some dozen foreign helpers down there is like trying to save a burning house with a coffee mug. The problem with Greece is that one must change the structures down there and implement a completely new, effective administration. The greek state is notoriously bankrupt since it became independent and suffers since then from corrupt elites and totally incompetent civil servants. To say the truth, in this regard Greece is in fact a third world country. Another big handicap is the weak economy; even the branches the Greeks possess (like tourism) are not competitive. All that has to change, otherwise Europe will pay for Greece indefinitely. Unfortunately, the Greeks must make these changes on their own and from within their society. Which is, I fear, only wishful thinking.
21:09 February 25, 2012 by karldehm
Children stop squabbling! Greece is quite aware of who owes them money. They just lack a proper system to make it work, just as they needed a German coach to organize them and win the 2004 European cup.

Offering them help and working together with them will benefit both of us. The more taxes they collect the less money they will have to borrow from us.

The problem is that the crocks (politicians, wealthy families, etc.) in Greece really did not want or need an effective tax system as it would only have led to them paying their fair share of taxes. A similar system exists in Russia and the US where the elite don not want things to change. Maybe, they too could use our help before especially the USA also goes broke. Looking at their debt load, it may be sooner then everyone thinks.
21:20 February 25, 2012 by Englishted
With the way anti -German sentiment is in Greece at the moment(rightly or wrongly) are these tax collectors being promised a number of virgins when their suicide mission is over.
21:29 February 25, 2012 by karldehm
They will be promised as many virgins as they want as soon as they set up a workable system that collects the tax required for such a service.
21:47 February 25, 2012 by Navigator_B
"The central German state of Hesse is also prepared to send in volunteers, the state¦#39;s Finance Minister Thomas Schäfer of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) said."

Hesse's capital is Frankfurt where you'll find the headquarters of many of the German banks who want to get back the money that they lent to Greece. It's also home to the the headquarters of the ECB and the Bundesbank who were supposed to be regulating the behaviour of those banks.

I don't think the Greeks would be stupid enough to want people who probably worked for organisations that helped Greece get into the mess that it is now in. The Greeks might remember a trick they pulled on the Trojans a long time ago. Beware of Frankfurt bankers bearing gifts.
21:53 February 25, 2012 by karldehm
I really don't see the relationships between collecting taxes and banks. If you are saying that the banks caused this mess in the first place and now want their money back. All the more reason to send them. Any one who lends money and ask for it back cannot be all that stupid.
22:00 February 25, 2012 by KamiZ
If I was Greece I'd take Germany up on this offer but I'm willing to bet anything that the Greek newspapers will somehow liken this to Germany sending over military advisers and taking over Greece somehow economically. Pretty sure there'll be something akin to they want to take over us again but this time it's economic warfare. As I see it, Greece has major tax collection issues.
00:22 February 26, 2012 by smart2012
Honestly I am not sure if I would want in my country people from a country that has a corrupted president...... :)
09:12 February 26, 2012 by wood artist
While operationally this might make great sense, I suspect politically it's DOA.

The ultimate Greek humiliation would be to have "foreigners" come in to identify and point out their incompetence. Given the most recent issues, the only way that could possibly be worse would be for those "foreigners" to be German. Yes, it's probably wise to look at a functional system for lessons, but that's pretty much akin to asking the US to help Afghanistan have a functional democracy; Just not going to work real well.

I suspect that the issue is not a lack of knowledge, although there is likely some of that, but a lack of desire...at a societal level. As long as society is willing to "look the other way" and tacitly accept tax evasion as a legitimate stance, nothing much will change. As the article points out, the Greek government knows many of those evading taxation, but the measure of success would be actively going after them, something they haven't been able (or willing) to do.

Like many things in life, knowing what you should do and doing it are two very different things. I doubt the bulk of the problem is Greek "ignorance" but more likely Greek "motivation." We might think they should be motivated by now...but...well, I'm not so certain that's the case.

09:23 February 26, 2012 by Alexander Malinowski
German tax officers are too reasonable and merciful for Greeks. They should send Polish tax officers. They have many ways to persecute taxpayers. For example they have 5 years to investigate, so they find issues in 4th year. For taxpayer the cost is raised by punishment business rate that is double market one. I forgot to pay a 100 euro and paid it the next day I had to pay fine for treasure to lose 100 euro. They interpreted it as deliberate attempt to deny treasure money - the full amount 100 euro. Moreover there is institution to self-incrimination and self-punishment. As far as I am concerned the Polish taxpayers are the most nervous in Europe about paying taxes and it is exactly the cure Greeks need.
09:33 February 26, 2012 by siddal
´tax men´

like US ´consultants´perhaps?
10:11 February 26, 2012 by smart2012
And the first thing merkel should do it to stop forcing Greece of buying German submarines and tanks (even defective ones....). This would enable to reduce the debt
10:18 February 26, 2012 by Celeon
This is a stupid idea that will go down really well with the Greece media.

With all the anti-german rhetoric and tales of the alleged "big german attack on Greece's autonomity" thrown around by some parts of greece's boulevard media, it is only a question of time until some nutter there takes all that rhetoric they are spreading overly serious and pulls a gun to "protect his country"

And thats no exaggeration. There were already people killed in protests and dont forget those package bombs sent to Germany and other countries. The readiness for using violence is very high among austerity protesters in Greece at the moment.

And this suggestion is exactly that stuff thats suited for pushing possible mental cases among them over the edge. If Greece asks for support by foreign tax experts, let them come from somewhere else which is not on Greece's self-righteous blame list.
10:51 February 26, 2012 by smart2012
And merkel should keep the officers in Germany to solve the following issues:

1. 18% of people not reaching minimum salary for living

2. Minus 0.2 growth in q4 2011

3. No growth in 2012

4. Reduction of qualified jobs (eg siemens firing 3k people in Munich, tissenkrup closing a plant in Germany, IBM firing 8 k people in Germany, kraft firing 400 people in Germany etc etc)

5. Right party growing again in germany ( egyptian restaurant being given fire last week in Munich)

6. Strike at Frankfurt airport never ending

7. Life too expensive, with low living standards (bad food, awful customer service, zero entertainment)

8. mueller bread having mice traces in it...

9. Etc etc etc
11:32 February 26, 2012 by The-ex-pat
09:33 February 26, 2012 by siddal

´tax men´

like US ´consultants´perhaps?

Except that German "consultants" are unlikely to be armed to the teeth, shoot a few people, be totally unaccountable to anyone and come home far richer than when they went..............................................
13:30 February 26, 2012 by raandy
What would they accomplish? The Greeks know who isn't paying. That isn't the problem, it's the good old boy system there, where the rich don't pay and the poor don't pay and the middle class that use to pay no longer exists due to all the austerity.

They need to change the old system of cronyism and institute better market reforms.

Until they become profitable , this situation will not end with a mere audit.
14:18 February 26, 2012 by Bushdiver
@ Michel_Berlin....This has nothing to do with learning from the present drama. In Greece many of the population had not paid taxes. In Germany on the other hand people are overtaxed IMOP. I don't know about you, but there is plenty of tax in Germany. The wages somehow don't seem to keep up. How many months does a German have to work just to pay his taxes? Was it 6 months?
00:16 February 27, 2012 by Michel_Berlin

About a half year, yes.

Our taxes are high, but not the highest. And social security, education, infrastructure...everything costs.

As it is now, Germans make the right choice...
01:44 February 27, 2012 by SonOfSparta
Ha, ha, ha, Germany sending in their taxmen to Greece? You gotta be kidding?! What arrogance for any politician to say!! Please is the German government that delusional to believe that they are that much better? What, does no one in the German government believe that no German bank lenders or German firm didn't participate in scams on Greece? Why are not of any the Siemens officials in jail or other German bank officials who were aware from the get go that the books were cooked and helped cook those books? Here, here, I have a better idea guys, why not give back the gold (including interest) what your fellow German officials stole form us Greeks in the National Bank of Greece during WWII?" Oh I know, don't bring up what happen in 1941, nooooo, that's too horrible a reality for present day Germans or EU to stomach, but nevertheless it would be the right thing to do.
02:32 February 27, 2012 by Michel_Berlin

actually you are welcomed to laugh at us at will and do what you want. But please start with stop begging us for money.

Leave us alone and we will leave you alone....deal?
14:00 February 27, 2012 by jg.
This sounds like another statement to annoy the hell out of the Greeks in a ongoing German campaign to get Greece to leave the Euro.
00:32 February 28, 2012 by pistight
In the past 2 years Greece has received 490 billion € bailout (including the current package), to put this into the big picture Somalia currently suffering from the worst famine in their history where over 1 million people died in the past year has not received even 1 billion € by any government or institution.

I feel that the European Union is getting ripped off and the countries that really require aid like Somalia are left out to starve.

On top of all that some of the greek politicians are accusing the German government as well as the European union of greediness and are even referring our behavior to be similar to the one of our darkest hours. Now German government offers qualitative help to solve the situation and the greek government declines it out of pride (This is in reference to the german tax officers being sent to Greece).

We are throwing money away into a bottomless hole and the people that really require this help are dying. Please also someone explain how borrowing 490 billion € to a country without receiving a penny back in return, is in any sense economically profitable. The only thing I see here is the abuse of decency, help, and aid. The greek government has been paying pensions to dead people for years without realizing, it is unbelievable that a country in the European union could demonstrate such behavior.

In Germany you have to work six month a year just to pay your taxes and even the disposable income that is consumed is taxed with another 19 % on top. To put this into context, tax evasion is considered a peccadillo, and the VAT was just raised to 5 %. 19 % - 5 % = 14 % difference on the purchase of any commodity or good.
05:52 February 28, 2012 by SonOfSparta

The bailout money to Greece is actually going to straight back to European banks and other financial institutions primarily in France and Germany. The money will only create modern day surfs of Greek citizens. I agree that African countries who are in debt do deserve our help more than Greece. But in reality what the EU is doing is keeping itself afloat, that is its bankers, by playing a shell game and lending Greece more money will go back to EU bankers and investors so that they don't take a hit. It may be Greece today, but tomorrow it can be other European nations with high debt. The shock and awe approach by Germany today against Greece will lead to European destabilization. The Euro was meant to bring Europe together but in reality what its doing is allowing certain financial institutions to gain a ridiculous amounts of power even more so than independent sovereign states.
07:02 February 28, 2012 by mos101392
I hope these "tax men" don't work for Siemens.
11:30 February 28, 2012 by Englishted

Isn't Somalia that land with ,

1 Pirates / kidnappers

2 A civil War

3 Muslim extremists who don't allow aid in and kill aid workers

Sort that out and then come back with the begging bowl for food not arms.
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