ATHENS – During a tax reform debate in Parliament, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis defended his government’s plan aimed at the self-employed as crucial to bringing in revenues to pay for more state services, raise wages and pensions.
Ahead of a vote his government seems certain to win as it has a 158-seat majority in the 300-member body he said the package was a “significant social justice reform,” although it goes after musicians, taxi drivers, hairdressers and the like.
The country’s shipping oligarchs worth scores of billions of euros are largely tax-exempt and Greece has one of the harshest tax brackets in the world, going after worldwide income at rates up to 45 percent and not allowing exemptions.
That has seen people try to hide their real income to make ends meet with high inflation now cooling off and supermarket prices out of reach for money while the wealthy hide their income in foreign bankers and professionals declaring little.
“There is only one road: confronting the distortions of the past that hinder the national progress of the future.” He emphasized that “in the second four-year term, it is time to distribute tax burdens more fairly and balanced.”
There have been protests and strikes against the package that at one point said people would have to pay taxes based on what the government presumed the would make even if they didn’t.
But he said their monies are essential without explaining why the government isn’t going after professionals declaring incomes under the tax-free threshold while having lavish homes, cars and second homes in some cases.
“Only in this way can we further reduce tax rates. Only this way can we increase wages and pensions, maintain the readiness of the armed forces, and strengthen the safety net for the most vulnerable against extraordinary challenges. This is a deeply political issue addressed by the legislation we are discussing today.”
He said that the bill would try “to close the loopholes of tax evasion on many and varied levels,” and that it would bring transparency in transactions, combat smuggling, prevent the circulation of cash of unknown origin, and fairly broaden the base of contributors to tax revenues.
“It is a bill that modernizes the relationship between the state and the citizen. Additionally, it establishes a framework that addresses the conditions of our times, but above all, it constitutes a significant reform of social justice,” he said.