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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #111)

Tue May 8, 2012, 08:04 AM

112. But if government tax receipts do not increase to cover those loan payments

then you are screwed. You still have to get back more than you spend. Greece didn't do that.

It doesn't help that tax evasion is the national pastime.

Greece is a fairly small country, but for the past year it has been causing an awfully big uproar. Burdened by a pile of government debt that could force it into default (and the European banking system into a meltdown), Greece has had to adopt ever more stringent austerity plans in order to secure a bailout from the European Union. Explanations of how Greece got in this mess typically focus on profligate public spending. But its fiscal woes are also due to a simple fact: tax evasion is the national pastime.

According to a remarkable presentation that a member of Greece’s central bank gave last fall, the gap between what Greek taxpayers owed last year and what they paid was about a third of total tax revenue, roughly the size of the country’s budget deficit. The “shadow economy”—business that’s legal but off the books—is larger in Greece than in almost any other European country, accounting for an estimated 27.5 per cent of its G.D.P. (In the United States, by contrast, that number is closer to nine per cent.) And the culture of evasion has negative consequences beyond the current crisis. It means that the revenue burden falls too heavily on honest taxpayers. It makes the system unduly regressive, since the rich cheat more. And it’s wasteful: it forces the government to spend extra money on collection (relative to G.D.P., Greece spends four times as much collecting income taxes as the U.S. does), even as evaders are devoting plenty of time and energy to hiding their income.


Read more http://www.newyorker.com/talk/financial/2011/07/11/110711ta_talk_surowiecki#ixzz1uHM45Kaj

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