My sympathies to the staff of the Greek revenue service, who seemingly have to endure levels of anger and threats of violence that far exceed those endured by their counterparts in HMRC. The situation has become so bad, that Greek tax staff are being put through compulsory anger management courses.
The Guardian quotes Fotis Kourmouris, a senior official at the finance ministry's public revenues department:
"Today, in Greece, everyone is either unhappy or angry when they have to go and pay at the tax office.While the rich and well connected are perceived to get off scot-free, Greek tax inspectors have found themselves at the sharp end of popular rage. In recent months visiting auditors have been chased out of remote villages, hounded out of towns and booted off islands by an increasingly desperate populace.
There is a lot of negative emotion … in the framework of better customer service, classes in psychological and emotional intelligence had become necessary.
Every employee who deals with customers will attend them over the next six to eight months.
We are not only trying to improve relations but break the vicious cycle. Tax offices blame citizens [for the country's fiscal woes] and citizens blame tax offices for all their problems. It is important that trust is rebuilt."
Trifonas Alexiadis, vice-chairman of the national association of employees at state financial services said:
"We've had multiple cases of violence at tax offices by angry members of public, including physical assaults; shots were fired in one case, and one attacker came with an axe."A series of new tax laws has further fuelled public anger. Since the outbreak of the Greek debt crisis, close to 30 new levies have been introduced by governments desperate to augment empty state coffers.
Standing in line on the first floor of a graffiti-splattered tax office in central Athens, an accountant Heracles Galanakopoulos said:
"They produce a law that nobody understands and then produce another three to explain it. By the time people get here they are really very angry.Let us trust that our politicians take note, and start to make good on their "promises" to simplify our tax system!
I spend at least five or six hours a day reading up on all these new laws and still can't keep up. Anger management is a nice idea but in a system that is so absurd it's not going to make a jot of difference."
Tax does have to be taxing.
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