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Cyprus Requires Businesses to Accept Cards Too, Not Just Cash

Αssociated Press

FILE - A man uses the ATM machine as two women wait outside a branch of Bank of Cyprus in central capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Aimed at cutting tax evasion and making them accountable, 80 groups of businesses and services on Cyprus now must accept payments in credit and debit cars so they can't use cash to avoid obligations.

It includes groups notorious for hiding income, including doctors, lawyers and street food vendors although a similar law in effect in Greece has easily been breached by those claiming machines to process payments and no Internet access.

While the use of cards has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic to avoid touching paper money and coins and with expanded use of online delivery services to homes, some businesses in Cyprus are resisting.

The list of businesses and services required to comply is long, including accounting offices, hospitals, dentists, general and specialist medical professions, dining, entertainment and leisure facilities, hairdressers, camping facilities, caterers and mobile canteens.

Also, car repair services, plumbers and air conditioning installations as well as all retail businesses must comply but it wasn't said how it would be enforced as in Greece, for example, customers and service providers often work out cash deals for lower prices and tax avoidance.

Businesses and services also must inform customers that cards will be accepted, said The Cyprus Mail in a report on the new measures, which still allow the use of cash.

“It is a positive measure as regards tax evasion and transaction security,” head of POVEK, the union of craftsmen and shop owners Stephanos Koursaris told the paper. It will also help save time as entrepreneurs may not need to make frequent trips to the bank.

But the union wants businesses not registered with Value Added Tax (VAT) to be exempted possibly in addition to certain products with minimal profit margins sold in convenience stores, the paper said.

There are also complaints about taking cards for small item purchases such as cigarettes, newspapers and phone cards with set prices and small profits which could be hurt by charges associated with taking some credit cards.

Spyros Xinaris said it's a real problem for operators of small kiosks on the streets who rely on impulse buyers walking by for small and sundry items that are low cost but bring the owners little money too.

“They will force kiosk owners to break the law,” he told paper as most kiosks had refused to accept cards for most items or would be allowed to charge more to offset costs of taking so-called plastic money.

RCB, the only Acquirer Bank in Cyprus offering payment processing solutions, told the Sunday Mail that, “Indeed there is an increased interest for RCB Bank’s digital products and services especially in regard to Merchant Acquiring Services for accepting card payments by corporate clients, merchants and other professionals in view of the new decree.”

Finance Ministry tax officer Irini Ioannou said inspections for violators would not begin imminently although noting that there are fines up to 2,000 euros ($2345) for initial offenders, who can appeal to an administrative court.