Greek Δεν Πληρώνω (“Won’t Pay”) Tax Resisters Use a Variety of Tactics

The New York Times covered the tax resistance movement in Greece. Here are some excerpts that highlight some of the tactics being used there:

The tax inspectors swept into this picturesque village in Crete during the middle of a saint’s day celebration recently, moving from restaurant to restaurant demanding receipts and financial records. Soon, customers annoyed by the holiday disruption confronted them. Pushing, shoving and angry words followed, and eventually the frightened inspectors were forced to flee.

“People are so angry and so poor,” said Nikolis Geniatakis, who has run his restaurant here on the main square for the last 34 years and who watched the confrontation from across the street. “What were the tax inspectors doing here? Why aren’t they going after the big fish?”

At , tax arrears totaled 45 billion euros, or about $62.1 billion. At , €56 billion, or about $77.3 billion. At , with the most active tax period to come, the arrears had risen to €60 billion, or almost $83 billion, equivalent to nearly a fifth of the government’s public debt.

Experts say many of the tax collection measures are not effective, especially those aimed at the rich. Taxing yacht owners, for instance, only encouraged them to moor their boats elsewhere, emptying Greek marinas.

But perhaps as troublesome, some experts say, is the growing grass-roots anger that led the customers to turn against the four tax inspectors recently in Archanes. Tax collectors have been threatened or chased out of many towns, union officials say, though only a few cases, like the one here, get much attention.

Anna Apostolou, an accountant who works mostly for small-business owners, said many of her clients just refuse to pay or turn to the courts, knowing that will tie up payment for years.

“They are so furious at what they see,” she said. “They have just decided they will not pay. If they are fined they will not pay.”

Next year, Greek officials will also have to give up on one tax collection system that has worked well so far: attaching property tax bills to electric bills. The courts have ruled that the threat of losing electricity is illegal.

That last assertion, about the government giving up on its attempt to add taxes to electric bills, surprised me. A Associated Press article reported that “Retirees, the disabled, and high school teachers were among thousands of protesters who clogged the Greek capital’s streets to demonstrate against a new property tax and other austerity measures. The show of anger disrupted traffic for more than eight hours.” The article continued:

Parliament is due to vote next week on proposals to replace an emergency property tax included on electricity bills with a permanent levy, breaking a pledge made last year by the conservative-led coalition government to abolish the tax.

Which seems to contradict the Times’s reporting.

More than a thousand disabled demonstrators from all over the country blocked traffic outside the Labor Ministry building before filing through the city center in wheelchairs, on crutches and using white canes for the blind.

Yannis Vardakastanis, a blind Greek who heads the European Disability Forum, said the protest was called after disabled people were denied an exemption from the new property tax. “We are the poorest of the poor, but we must not let them turn us into victims,” he said.

Some other recent reporting in the Greek press (which I have a harder time interpreting because of the language gap) seems to show the acquittals of some of the first Δεν Πληρώνω (“Won’t Pay”) movement activists to be put on trial for reconnecting the power at homes where the power was shut off for refusal to pay the new taxes:

Here’s a video from the last of those links, showing one of the Archibald Tuttle-like unauthorized utility workers doing his good deed: