Taxing Times

Author:Maria Petrakis
Position:MARIA PETRAKIS is a freelance journalist based in Athens.
14 FINANCE & DEVELOPMENT | September 2019
The head of Greece’s tax collection agency is on a mission to improve compliance
Maria Petrakis
It is the height of a hot Greek summer, and Athens is mobbed by tourists. Dressed in shorts and sa ndals,
they cram the shops lini ng the narrow cobblestone alleyways of t he historic Plaka district, at the foot of the
Acropolis, in search of olives, ma gnets, T-shirt s, and other trinkets. One man hagg les with a street vendor
over the price of a tote bag. It is the kind of cash tra nsaction that George Pitsilis is trying to stamp out.
If tourist arriva ls match last year’s numbers, some 30 million people will visit Greece th is year, buying Greek
coees and Greek salads, renting cars and be ach umbrellas, and boosting the country’s shrunken economy
with €16 billion in spending. Pitsilis, Greece’s chief tax collec tor, is determined to ma ke sure the value-added
tax—a crucia l source of revenue for the cash-strapped state—is collected on t hose transactions.
By law, retailers and other service providers are requ ired to accept credit, debit, and payment cards and issue
receipts. But with a 24 percent value-added tax— among the highest in Europe—the temptation to cheat is st rong.
So the Greek revenue administ ration has launched a public relations campaign, dubbed “Apodixi, please,”
encouraging tourist s to use plastic and ask for a receipt, or apodixi. Pitsilis has a lso ordered audits and inspections

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