Ritchie on Greek taxes


But the fact is that Greece needs help to achieve this goal. That help will come in the form of the technical aid, and maybe long loan of personnel, required to help the Greek government collect the tax that is owed to it.

I have seen no mention of this issue of assistance to achieve this goal in any report, so far, but it seems to me that it is absolutely central to the debate to be had. Unless and until it is acknowledged that Greece (and other countries) need help to collect tax owing, and that a new international consensus to beat tax evasion is at the heart of making our economies work again, then progress on Greece, and on Spain and other countries to come, will not happen.

What is that technical assistance that is needed? First, a proper evaluation of the tax gaps of these countries is essential.

Then an analysis on an individual country basis of why the gap is occurring needs to be undertaken so that an effective plan to tackle the issues can be prepared.

At that point it is likely that technical assistance from other authorities with experience of tackling evasion may well be needed: a cross fertilisation of ideas is vital.

So too though is the loan of personnel. Sometimes it is essential that people from outside a country help it in the process of transforming a tax system to collect the tax owing. The reason for that is simply stated: outsiders are harder to corrupt in these situations because the do not face the same risk of future retribution for the actions they take.

Technical assistance is one of the things the troika has been doing. And that technical assitance no longer coming to Athens is one of the things that Syriza hsa just insisted upon.

44 thoughts on “Ritchie on Greek taxes”

  1. Aw, love him. Fresh from proclaiming Apple doesn’t know how to make money, he now proclaims Apple has a monopoly. That may be true in the Murphy household (iPhone, iPad, Mac and Macbook Air enabled), but on the rest of planet earth somewhat different.

  2. @Tim Newman – that’s actually a great idea. It’d be likely to yield the surprising result of Murphy for the first time ever determining that the real tax gap in a country was much lower than official estimates had concluded. That would support a contention that it was just neoliberal sophistry that blamed Greece’s woes on their poor populace evading tax when the real problem was Boots’ CEO living in Monaco.

  3. Yes, please, even if they pay him, can he please go to Greece and be confronted by a bit of reality?

    Actually, can we have a whip-round and fund him to go out there for 6 months?

  4. bloke (not) in spain

    Foreign Tax Collectors.
    There’s three words to ponder.
    If you were writing an action novel, they’re not going to be amongst the hero figures, are they? Plot lines usually bump a couple off round about chapter three.

    Don’t think real life’d turn out much different.

  5. Foreign tax collectors? Ritchie’s New Testament should remind him how popular they are but if he’s up for the job, why not?

  6. Well, the first job is to establish the tax gap. I know one Greek bloke and he doesn’t declare any of his income. If we extrapolate that to the entire population of greece it means the tax gap is 100% of GDP.

    It’s easy doing tax numbers the Murphy way.

  7. It’s the same head fake we get from libtard Democrats here in The States: the governments’ problem is SPENDING, not REVENUE.

    The libtards cure for gross government overspending is . . . more taxes.

  8. Bloke in North Dorset

    More left wing imperialism. Those Greeks are so incompetent they need me and my mates to come and show them its done.

  9. Richie seems a bit out of step today, what with most of Labour pushing the line about Pessina/Boots/’foreigners telling us how to run our economy’.

    It can’t be about the innate superiority of the UK tax system, else how will Richie earn a crust tomorrow?

  10. “Apple is a monopoly”

    Well, it is using the Guardianista definition of a monopoly: a large, succesful company.

    So Apple and Google can both be monopolies in the same mobile phone OS market.

    Remember, words mean what I say they mean.

  11. abacab

    So that’s where Luke got his “I’m so bored” from on the “What the Fuck” thread..;)

    someone is either a total fascist or having a giggle here (it can be difficult to tell over there)

    Clearly having a giggle in that exchange!

    It’s quite strange – Richard says he “thinks big”, and yet is always so unbelievably slow when it comes to people gratuitously taking the piss, even when it’s so deliberately unsubtle.

  12. What I don’t understand is how is Greece able to post a primary surplus ? Where is this income coming or is it a continuation of their official fudging?

  13. @ Tim Newman and Richard
    Murphy would not go door-to-door – he’d sit in a nice office (during the day, nights in a luxury hotel) giving advice through an interpreter. I do know – I’ve been a consultant (the difference is that I was useful, swotted up enough of the local language to read accounts, and worked bloody hard – getting on for twice the scheduled hours). There’s snow in Norfolk but not in Athens so doubtless Murphy would like a semi-holiday in the warm.

  14. gunker – The alleged primary surplus is a statistical mirage. The new Greek finance minister (by all accounts an intelligent chap) wrote about it last year: http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2014/04/24/greek-statistics-are-back-primary-deficit-presented-as-surplus-with-eurostats-seal-of-approval/

    A few days later, he expounded on the politics of it – essentially the Greek government / civil service are very much aware of their trickery and are even boastful and proud of it.

    I’ve found other sources in Greek which, when run through Google Translate, agree with him. Hard to tell what the primary source is though.

  15. The Other Bloke in Italy

    Gunker, I imagine they do it the same way they do it here, where every finance head from the Comune to the Treasury has a desk drawer bulging with unpaid bills.

  16. So Much for Subtlety

    What technical assistance does he think we could offer the Greeks? Our massive experience in f**king up IT tenders?

    The Greeks have all the technical expertise they need – the Turks taught them to beat people on the feet. What they lack is tax payers who feel obliged to pay tax. And why would they? Given what the Greek government does with it. Tax paying is a largely voluntary activity. We pay. most of the time, because we are, by and large, honest. The Greeks don’t because they aren’t. No amount of technical advice is going to change that.

  17. And of course, much of the tax evaded in Greece is not “lost” to the economy as that moron Murphy likes to claim. If Stavros the taverna owner pays less in tax he has more to spend in the supermarket. Murphy claimed early in his discussion on this issue that no country could ‘survive’ with endemic tax evasion and yet clearly Greece has survived for centuries.

  18. Ken: I’ve told Murphy about that report.

    He says he was already aware of it when he wrote: “I have seen no mention of this issue of assistance to achieve this goal in any report, so far.”

    Section 3.9 of the report is devoted to the technical assistance being provided to Greece.

  19. Gamecock – This is the crux of the crisis facing the west.

    Politicians have been bribing the people with their own money for years, and now have run up massive debts. Yet when faced with the accusation that we have a spending problem, suddenly we have a tax collection/evasion issue. Just so they can get more of our money to in turn bribe us with.

    Excessive taxation and debt will crush the west. What will happen when the goodies run out for our “boisterous” minorities?

  20. @Pellinor – It is one of Murphy’s recurrent themes that when you point out something of which he was obvioulsy unaware, he will claim that he “knew that already”.

    Just like the line of high ranking and important people he ‘was talking to yesterday’ and who were agreeing with him on whatever the issue of the day was but who ‘have to remain anonymous’.

  21. Seamus O’Reilly. Fucking hell.

    I know I’ve said it before, but he is Ghandi in reverse.

    First he was winning, then we were fighting him, now I’m laughing at him, and I’m on the verge of ignoring him.

  22. Just to nail it for the LHTD. What a WGCE


    page 11.

    The three additional resident experts , recruited under
    a contract between the European Commission and BTC (Belgian Technical Cooperation) and facilitated by TFGR ,
    arrived between March and early June 2014 and started providing support in the areas of large taxpayer audit, intelligence and investigation, as well as revenue
    analysis and overall steering of local operations. Technical
    assistance was also intensified in the field of VAT (review of VAT legislation, enhancement of fight against VAT fraud to better detect so called missing trader fraud) and is expected to restart in the field of audit of high wealth individuals and high -income self – employed , following management changes in the Greek tax administration and
    a renewed willingness to receive targeted TA in this field.

  23. Magnus

    Abacab, Poe’s Law, innit.

    Even Ritchie can’t tell the difference anymore.

    From what I see, I don’t believe Richard is particularly capable of being intuitive in that sense?

    A rank amateur could have a field day posting over there and it would simply go over his head… (and as regularly does)

  24. Excessive taxation and debt will crush the west. What will happen when the goodies run out for our “boisterous” minorities?

    Over 60% of UK families receive some kind of benefits from the state. I suggest if the goodies run out the gov will have more to fear from them than ‘boisterous’ minorities.

  25. I think unless The Big Dick is paying tax in Greece he should be ashamed of offering his services.

    Oh, wait. “Ashamed” – how silly of me.

  26. RM says the EU report has no reference to the tax gap. True. But does it get half a cheer for having a section on closing the VAT gap?
    And maybe a few claps for improving revenue collection, reducing the debt balance, and tackling evasion?

  27. Has a Western state ever died before?

    Are there patterns of morbidity? The state drains the treasury. The state then borrows. When they can’t borrow any more, they print money until death by inflation. Greece can’t print money since they are on the Euro. So what is next???

    Does a neighboring state sweep in and take control? Macedonia? Albania is mainly Sunni Muslim, so that wouldn’t work. Bulgaria?

  28. Tim,

    I feel extremely proud of having made a comment, AND received an answer from the great man himself. I append this with my almost final comment :

    Alan Douglas says:
    February 3 2015 at 4:15 pm

    According to HMRC, ALL money in a country is tax, and therefore due to them. So, Richard, you are merely scratching at the surface of the problem.

    HMRC should indeed raise an army of tax collectors, what they need is a snappy name, perhaps General European Special Trapper And Political Organization ?
    Richard Murphy says:
    February 3 2015 at 8:56 pm

    What utter nonsense

    My final comment : And you don’t think GESTAPO is a good acronym ?

    Hahahahahaha !

  29. Alan Douglas

    LOL – I nearly missed it because it’s the last comment on the thread. I think in the old days, people might have used the term ‘simpleton’ for The LHTD – he really is slower than a lamppost on the uptake…

  30. So Much for Subtlety

    ukliberty – “Over 60% of UK families receive some kind of benefits from the state. I suggest if the goodies run out the gov will have more to fear from them than ‘boisterous’ minorities.”

    But large numbers of them also pay taxes. So if the State just stopped, they would get fewer freebies, but they would pay less tax and most of the White ones would probably be better off – it is not economically efficient to take your money, pay some useless civil service pensions and then give you the rest back.

    It is our Vibrants who would be a problem because so many of them would starve without welfare – all too many having no skills or aptitude for work – combined with a virulent sense of entitlement that means they think they are entitled to take what they like from the rest of us.

  31. The Greeks would be much better off giving up tax and government simultaneously and then seeing what evolves as both collection and spending are beyond repair. And handing over to Nato the task of maintaining borders.

  32. SMFS: “What technical assistance does he think we could offer the Greeks? Our massive experience in f**king up IT tenders?”

    UK government gets tenders pretty right. If you’re buying X shelves of Model 4 servers every month, the price is good. If you switch to Model 3 or 5 servers, the price is almost as good.

    I think that you are confusing tenders with projects. UK government has great experience of f**king up IT projects, but they are not alone.

    One of the UK IT magazines had statistics for IT project failure. [Apologies for no link: Computer Weakly?]

    30% of big IT projects succeed (mostly-ish) and then there are dribs and drabs of partial success. That’s 30% of all big IT projects, public or private sector, which meet the success parameters set by managers.

    The tender for a big project is a trivial matter. All the serious money is spent outside the tender when the project goes wrong. Money is pissed away when managers try to make the project into something else.

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