Greece’s desperation to get its citizens to stop dodging taxes has reached the point where the government has decided to bribe people to file their forms—with a chance to get out of taxes legally. The Times of London reports:
Under the plan to try and alter an ingrained culture of outright evasion and off-the-books cash transactions costing Athens an estimated €15 billion in receipts a year, Greeks who can produce VAT receipts will be eligible to enter a prize draw to win a free home, complete with a five-year property tax exemption.
Those who pay using credit and debit cards, leaving a paper trail that deters cheats, will also be rewarded with tax rebates on selected services, such as healthcare, that used to be tax deductible.
This is not the first time the Greek government has reached for what seems from the outside to be ludicrous measures to stop the cheats and fill its coffers:
Since Value Added Tax was hiked to 23 per cent to try to bolster Greece’s depleted coffers, evasion has soared. Last year the governing Syriza party came up with a plan to hire students as casual tax inspectors and informants. And tourists who tipped off the authorities to tas dodgers were to be rewarded with prizes, bonuses and free hoidays. However that scheme was scrapped following widespread ridicule.
As funny as this all is, it’s illustrative of why Greece has the problems it does—and of the scale of the challenge the EU is facing. It’s impossible to imagine this sort of thing being tolerated in Germany or Denmark; equally, it’s difficult to see a future where it’s no longer a factor in Greece. Those who dream of a united, German-ized Europe keep coming up against the north-south cultural divide. Until they have a good answer for how to fix it, the problems with integration are likely to continue.