Populaire berichten

dinsdag 14 juli 2015

Greece pledges to get rid of tax evasion as a way of life

- Grieken betalen veel te weinig belasting, dus dan doe wij het maar voor ze. Waarom politici niet snappen dat Griekenland pas veranderd als ze het zelf moeten doen na een faillissement ipv het land gratis geld geven in ruil voor hervormingen die ze toch niet uitvoeren zoals ze nu doen is mij een groot raadsel.

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Dimitris Bokas keeps meticulous records of the bathroom fixtures he sells from his small shop in the quiet middle-class residential neighborhood of Koukaki near the center of Athens — just in case a tax inspector makes a surprise visit to ensure Greece's 23 percent sales tax is being collected and reported correctly.
But Bokas also does installation and repair jobs — and half of those involve cash deals with no receipts for his labor. The result is that a job costing 250 euros ($275) goes for 125 euros because he doesn't charge the client sales tax and Bokas doesn't report the income for taxation. "I've got a receipt for everything I sell in my shop," Bokas said. But tax officials "don't know what my hands do."
This kind of tax dodging is a Greek national pastime, costing the state billions of euros in revenue. Greece promised last week to get tough on tax evasion in return for a third European bailout expected to be negotiated over the next month. The talks, expected to last four weeks, will start if Parliament agrees by Wednesday to eurozone demands including tax hikes and pension cuts.
But experts say Greece has largely failed in previous crackdowns on tax evasion, which has been rampant for generations. An estimated 10 billion euros in taxes never makes it into government coffers annually.
Tax dodging among Greeks started as a sign of patriotism during nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule that ended in 1821. It continues today amid mistrust over government spending and disdain over how the country's various administrations have handled Greece's financial mess after the economy imploded in 2009.
"A lot of Greeks believe it's not only a way to cheat the inefficient Greek government, but a way to exert small time resistance to the bailout agreement and tax hikes," said Aristidis Hatzis, a professor of law and economics at Athens University. "They do not perceive this as a kind of corruption."
Contributing to the problem is an informal economy that accounts for about 25 percent of Greece's annual gross domestic product. Evasion is most common in the services sector where customers don't receive a physical product, and it's not limited to small businesses like plumbers and restaurants.
In monthly reports, Greece's financial crimes unit lists finalized tax investigation cases and recent offenders include doctors, engineers, high tech firms, construction companies, clothing manufacturers, bakeries, architects and advertising agencies.
Many cases involve unreported income of hundreds of thousands of euros or more and one lawyer failed to report 16 million euros in income, the unit said in a statement last week.
But many cases go uninvestigated because of poorly trained tax investigators, personnel shortages and politically motivated appointments of tax investigation supervisors, said Haris Theoharis, who was Greece's top tax enforcer until last year and is now a lawmaker with the centrist To Potami party.
Theoharis said it's too soon to tell whether the governing far left Syriza party will mount an effective campaign against tax evasion because few specifics of its plans have been disclosed. He argued that freeing the system from political interference is key: "Unless they depoliticize the tax administration and stop trying to interfere with who gets promoted," he said, "they will not have success."
Nikolaos Artavanis, a finance professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said the government's decision to raise the sales tax for restaurants as part of its offer in return for a bailout could prevent a tax evasion crackdown from working.
The rate is going from 6.5 percent to 13 percent for hotels and from 13 percent to 23 percent for restaurants and other businesses that sell food. Many Greek restaurant and hotel owners say they'll be forced to absorb the hike because their clients can't afford to pay more, and experts like Artavanis believe evasion could skyrocket.
"The fiscal impact could be zero or be negative because tax evasion will increase," he said. "They could get less in taxes."
More enforcement will be needed, but Artavanis said many parts of Greece rarely see a tax inspector. His research focuses on tax payments by Greek restaurants, and owners in some parts of the country have told him they have not had tax inspector visits since last August.
Bokas, the plumber and fixture vendor, said most of his customers who want no-tax jobs are apartment owners or small businesses. Larger businesses and big apartment buildings with on-site management always want a receipt for the work so they pay the full price, and Bokas collects the sales tax and pays tax on the work he does for those jobs.
He said would prefer to do all of his work legally but doubted there will be much change in Greece unless the entire country changes its habits. Unlike Greeks who distrust the government's ability to effectively spend tax money, Bokas thinks officials should be given a chance to prove they can.
"Paying all the taxes we owe would be the right thing to do and it would help us have a healthier country," he said. "If the tax were paid, the rich wouldn't be able to get richer by evading taxes and the poor wouldn't have to evade taxes so they can just get by."

maandag 13 juli 2015

Blanchard: Hoofdeconoom van het IMF over Griekenland

All eyes are on Greece, as the parties involved continue to strive for a lasting deal, spurring vigorous debate and some sharp criticisms, including of the IMF.
In this context, I thought some reflections on the main critiques could help clarify some key points of contention as well as shine a light on a possible way forward.
The main critiques, as I see them, fall under the following four categories:
  • The 2010 program only served to raise debt and demanded excessive fiscal adjustment.
  • The financing to Greece was used to repay foreign banks.
  • Growth-killing structural reforms, together with fiscal austerity, have led to an economic depression.
  • Creditors have learned nothing and keep repeating the same mistakes.
Critique 1: The 2010 program only served to raise debt and demanded excessive fiscal adjustment.
  • Even before the 2010 program, debt in Greece was 300 billion euros, or 130% of GDP.  The deficit was 36 billion euros, or 15½ % of GDP.  Debt was increasing at 12% a year, and this was clearly unsustainable.
  • Had Greece been left on its own, it would have been simply unable to borrow. Given gross financing needs of 20–25 % of GDP, it would have had to cut its budget deficit by that amount. Even if it had fully defaulted on its debt, given a primary deficit of over 10% of GDP, it would have had to cut its budget deficit by 10% of GDP from one day to the next.  These would have led to much larger adjustments and a much higher social cost than under the programs, which allowed Greece to take over 5 years to achieve a primary balance.
  • Even if existing debt had been entirely eliminated, the primary deficit, which was very large at the start of the program, would have had to be reduced. Fiscal austerity was not a choice, but a necessity. There simply wasn’t an alternative to cutting spending and raising taxes. The deficit reduction was large because the initial deficit was large. “Less fiscal austerity,” i.e., slower fiscal adjustment, would have required even more financing cum debt restructuring, and there was a political limit to what official creditors could ask their own citizens to contribute.
Critique 2: The financing given to Greece was used to repay foreign banks
  • Debt restructuring was delayed by two years. There were reasons for it, namely concerns about contagion risk (Lehman was fresh in memory), and the lack of firewalls to deal with contagion. Whether these reasons were good enough can be argued one way or the other.  In real time, the risks were perceived to be too high to proceed with restructuring.
  • Partly as a result of this delay, an important fraction of the funds in the first program were used to pay short term creditors, and to replace private debt by official debt. The bail-out did not however only benefit foreign banks, but also Greek depositors and households, as one-third of the debt was held by Greek banks and other Greek financial institutions.
  • Moreover, private creditors were not off the hook, and, in 2012, debt was substantially reduced: The 2012 private sector involvement (PSI) operation led to a haircut of more than 50% on about €200 billion of privately held debt, so leading to a decrease in debt of over €100 billion (to be concrete, a reduction of debt of 10,000 euros per Greek citizen).
  • And the shift from private to official creditors came with much better terms, namely below market rates and long maturities. Look at it this way: Cash interest payments on Greek debt last year amounted to 6 billion euros (3.2% of GDP), compared to 12 billion euros in 2009. Or put yet another way, interest payments by Greece were lower, as a proportion of GDP, than interest payments by Portugal, Ireland, or Italy.
Critique 3: Growth-killing structural reforms, together with fiscal austerity, have led to an economic depression
  • Given the dismal productivity growth record of Greece before the program, a number of structural reforms were seen as necessary, ranging from a reform of the tax administration, to reduced barriers to entry in many professions, to reforms of pensions, to reforms of collective bargaining, to reforms of the judicial system, etc.
  • Many of these reforms were either not implemented, or not implemented on a sufficient scale. Efforts to improve tax collection and the payment culture failed completely.  There was fierce resistance to open closed sectors and professions.  Only 5 of 12 planned IMF reviews under the current program were completed, and only one has been completed since mid-2013, because of the failure to implement reforms.
  • The decrease in output was indeed much larger than had been forecast. Multipliers were larger than initially assumed.  But fiscal consolidation explains only a fraction of the output decline.  Output above potential to start, political crises, inconsistent policies, insufficient reforms, Grexit fears, low business confidence, weak banks, all contributed to the outcome.
Critique 4: Creditors have learned nothing and keep repeating the same mistakes
  • The election of a government in 2015 openly opposed to the program further decreased ownership and required revisiting the existing program, both in terms of policies and in terms of financing.
  • A more limited set of structural reforms, or/and a slower fiscal adjustment implies, arithmetically, larger financing needs, and, by implication, more need for debt relief. To take an extreme case, if the European creditors were willing to simply forget all existing debt and extend further financing, there would be little need for more adjustment.  But, clearly, there were and are political limits to what they can ask their own citizens to contribute.
  • Thus, a realistic solution had to involve some adjustment, some financing, and some debt relief — a balanced approach. The role of the IMF in the negotiations was to ask for specific credible adjustments in policies, and make explicit the financing and debt relief implications.
  • We believed that a small primary surplus, increasing over time, was absolutely necessary to maintain debt sustainability. Having examined the budget closely, we did not see how this could be achieved without VAT reform to broaden the tax base, and pension reform to put the pension system on a sustainable footing.  On these, our views coincided fully with those of our European partners.
  • Until the referendum and its potential implications for growth, we believed that, under these assumptions about the primary surplus, debt sustainability could be achieved through the rescheduling of existing debt, and long maturities for new debt. This was reflected in the preliminary debt sustainability analysis (DSA) we put out before the referendum. Our assessment was seen as too pessimistic by our European partners to whom we had communicated our views about the need for debt relief long before publishing the debt sustainability analysis. We believe that current developments may well imply the need for even more financing, not least in support of the banks, and for even more debt relief than in our DSA.
A Path Forward 
  1. Given the results of the referendum, and the mandate given to the Greek government, we believe that there may still be room for an agreement. It should be based on a set of policies close to those discussed before the referendum, amended to take into account that the government is now requesting a 3-year program, and a more explicit recognition of the need for more financing and more debt relief.
  1. Fundamentally, the Euro area faces a political choice: lower reforms and fiscal targets for Greece means a higher cost for the creditor countries. The role of the Fund in this context is not to recommend a particular decision, but to indicate the tradeoff between less fiscal adjustment and fewer structural reforms on the one hand, and the need for more financing and debt relief on the other.
  1. The room for agreement is extremely narrow, and time is of the essence. There should be no doubt that exit from the Euro would be extremely costly for Greece and its creditors. The introduction of a new currency, and of redenomination of contracts, raises extremely complex legal and technical issues, and is likely to be associated with a further large decline in output.  It may take a long time for the depreciation of the new currency to lead to a substantial turnaround.
In sum, we still believe there is a path forward. The Fund is committed to helping Greece through this period of economic turmoil. Given Greece’s failure to make a repayment due to the IMF on June 30, the Fund would be unable to provide any financing until the arrears are cleared. However, we have offered to provide technical assistance, where requested, and we remain fully engaged.

dinsdag 7 juli 2015

Schokkende cijfers

Het blijft ongelofelijk dat we blijven praten met de Grieken. Maar de situatie kan voor Europa niet meer erger. Zowel de complete staatsschuld als bankreserves zijn ondertussen in handen van de Europese belastingbetaler. Onhoudbaar. Dit gaat ons dus veel geld kosten. We denken dan altijd weer terug aan Jan-Kees de Jager: "Alles komt met rente terug". Ik blijf me verwonderen hoe geaccepteerd het is dat politici liegen. Het is "normaal" en accepteren het alsof het niet anders kan. 4 jaar geleden was al duidelijk dat dit is wat zou gebeuren. 
In hun zogenaamde poging de euro en de Eu "te redden" , ondermijnen politici het hele fundament voor vertrouwen en steun voor deze munt en instituut. 
Nu afwachten tot de extra miljarden ze we mogen gaan bezuinigen door deze verliezen.

debt review ahead of a critical referendum in Greece on bailout terms underscores the financial and political obstacles Greece and the eurozone must overcome as they try to fix a six-year-old crisis. Here are some key numbers from the International Monetary Fund report.

€60-plus billion

Additional bailout cash needed to cover Greece’s financing needs between June 2015 and the end of 2018.

  • 40 years
    How far Greece’s debt-maturity should be extended on eurozone loans, doubled from 20 years, in order to make the country’s debt sustainable.
  • 2 percentage points of GDP
    How much Greece’s creditors offered to lower budget-surplus targets for 2015.
  • 177%
    The current ratio of Greece’s debt to gross domestic product (before capital controls were implemented this week).
  • Substantially below 110%
    The ratio of Greek debt to GDP that the IMF previously said would be sustainable by 2022.
  • 142%
    The ratio of Greek debt to GDP if Athens agrees to the creditors’ terms and the eurozone extends the country’s debt maturities.
  • 30% of GDP
    Losses eurozone taxpayers would have to take on their Greek debt holdings to reach the old debt targets of below 110% of GDP.
  • 200%
    The ratio of Greece’s public debt in 2017 if the country experiences a growth shock, such as could be caused by a prolonged period of capital controls.
  • 2%
    The IMF’s forecasted economic growth rate for the Greek economy next year–before capital controls were implemented this week. It’s a forecast that still requires “strong assumptions about labor market dynamics and structural reforms.”
  • 2020
    The year until which the eurozone would have to continue to bail out Greece if the creditors’ terms are weakened.
  • €53.1 billion
    Losses the eurozone would have to take, in addition to more bailout cash through 2020, if Greece is only able to achieve a budget surplus of 2.5% of GDP over the medium term.
  • 3.5% of GDP
    The medium-term budget surplus target assumed under the last bailout proposal offered by creditors.
  • €16 billion
    Bailout cash the IMF would provide if Greece reaches a deal according to the terms of the creditors’ last bailout offer, and if the eurozone gives Athens a debt-maturity extension.
  • Below €1 billion
    The total level of deposits in Greece’s state and commercial banks in May, before mass cash withdrawals began as bailout talks deteriorated.
  • €8 billion
    The level of bank deposits the fund says Greece should have on hand for a healthy financial system.
  • Over €7 billion
    How much Greece owes in unprocessed pension and tax refund claims and other domestic arrears. (And this number is likely higher, the fund warns: “Unreported arrears may be significant under tight financing conditions because agencies may not report all invoices received in such a constrained budgetary situation.”)
  • €50 billion
    The amount of revenue Greece agreed with its creditors in 2011 it would generate as it privatized state assets.
  • €3.2 billion
    The amount of revenue Greece generated through the privatization of assets through 2015.

zondag 5 juli 2015

Grieks referendum: NEE

Waarom steun aan de Grieken juist een crisis zal veroorzaken.
Dit betekent dat op termijn de Europese belastingbetaler de complete Griekse staatsschuld van 360 mld in handen krijgt !

De tweede reden dat dit een onmogelijk scenario is, is dat in 2014 een verwachte jaarlijkse economische groei van 3% nodig is, alleen al om de situatie te stabiliseren (de schulden worden dan nog niet minder). Dit zal absoluut niet haalbaar zijn.

Samen met alle financiële analisten en de financiële markten kan ik maar tot één conclusie komen: Griekenland steunen zal alleen maar zorgen voor uitstel van een faillissement !

Er is dus een goede motivatie voor Griekenland om de crisis zoveel mogelijk uit te stellen. Het geeft de Grieken de tijd om massaal hun geld weg te sluizen (wat nu op grote schaal gebeurt!) en de overheidsschuld over te hevelen naar de Europese belastingbetaler. De motivatie om terug te willen betalen zal met het verloop van de tijd alleen maar kleiner en kleiner worden, omdat de Grieken steeds minder belang zullen hebben om de schulden terug te betalen. De last komt immers steeds meer bij ons te liggen. De gewonde Griekse burger voelt zich helemaal niet verantwoordelijk voor de huidige situatie. Die legt de schuld bij corrupte politici en Europa. Dat ze geen belasting betalen en veel te vroeg met pensioen gaan is geen oorzaak, dat is hun recht. Hoe langer deze situatie duurt hoe meer we in gijzeling komen van de Grieken en hoe minder we te eisen zullen hebben. Uiteraard zullen de Grieken gewoon eieren voor hun geld kiezen en dan alsnog ervoor kiezen de schulden niet terug te betalen !

Wat quotes uit mijn openingspost van 4 jaar geleden ! Deze nee-stem was dus ver van te voren aan te zien komen. Kudo's voor de Griekse minister daar, hij heeft het goed gespeeld.

En nu ? Hier worden de belasting verhoogd, pensioenen verlaagd, pensioenleeftijden verhoogd, zorg verminderd etc etc. De Grieken hebben hier geen zin in en terecht, zou ik ook niet doen om die schulden terug te betalen. De grote vraag is, blijven onze politici doorgaan met ons geld over te maken. Want zo dom zijn wij dan weer. Wij blijven politici kiezen die graag ons geld uitgeven om er zelf goed uit te komen. Ze weten toch wel dat wij het blijven pikken en er niks tegen zullen doen. Het zit in onze cultuur. We proberen conflicten te vermijden tegen elke kost. Alles om maar de lieve vrede te bewaren en daarvoor laten we graag over ons heen lopen.