POS Law Unenforced, Greeks Slowing Use of Cards for Payments

(Photo: Eurokinissi/ Giorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS – Despite a law requiring the use of Point-of-Service (POS) machines that take credit and debit cards, to slow the use of cash that’s behind unstoppable tax cheating in Greece, customers and clients have cut back on the so-called “plastic money.”

Many professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, have the machines as required but some say they are out of order and encourage payment by cash without giving receipts so they can hide their income, unlike salaried workers bearing the brunt of a nearly nine-year-long economic crisis who have been targeted by austerity measures.

Greece also stipulates that people don’t have to pay unless they get a receipt but that’s gotten around by offering customers and clients lower bills and fees if they pay by cash so both sides can evade taxes.

Some 25 percent professionals required to install POS machines have not recorded a single transaction over the last couple of years, according to data presented by the commercial director at Cardlink, Antigonos Papadopoulos, at the 6th Digital Forum organized in Athens by Ethos Media, said Kathimerini.

There were no reports of any investigations or arrests or prosecutions although Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos had admitted the government has failed to rein in tax cheats it promised to round up.

The event, which showed the latest trends in online payments, heard that 25 percent of the points of sale (PoS) installed in 2017 and 2018 remain inactive. That amounts to almost 175,000 of the 700,000 terminals installed.

The annual value growth of electronic transactions conducted via Greek bank cards (excluding those by tourists) rose by 14 percent, against 17 percent growth in the same period of 2018 and 40 percent in 2017. Papadopoulos said this was because of the slow rise in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that fell 25 percent during a nine-year-long crisis.

Thousands of self-employed professionals, also including, accountants, engineers, electricians, and even taxi drivers, have installed card terminals to comply with legislation, but hardly ever use them.

The newspaper said it had reviewed the statistics banks have collected regarding the use of card terminals by key professional categories notorious for being tax evaders and found such low use there was evidence of continued dodging on income.

Lawyers – officers of the court sworn to uphold the law are the ones who most break it – with 90 percent not using the POS machines and putting the cash for services in their pockets, the statistics suggest, matched by engineers.

They were followed by electricians, with 80 percent of them accepting cash only, and accountants, at 70 percent. It’s only 38 percent for doctors but those who used them to show compliance reported their income was only 200 euros ($245.50) a month, far below the average income for that profession showing only occasional use of the POS devices.

Three-quarters of dentists accepted at least one card payment last year, which is explained by the costly nature of the work performed, preferring card payments as they reduce the risk of clients building up large arrears, the paper said.

As for taxi drivers, more than 30 percent did not use their card terminals last year, while 80 percent of bakeries accepted at least one payment by card although the scheme was designed to capture all purchases and services not just some or a few.