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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Greek road tax (Τέλη κυκλοφορίας)

Even though I don't own much technology because I can't afford it, I do revere any new invention that makes life easier, and I like to use online systems to make utilities payments, something most Greeks still don't do because they fear that there is some kind of goblin at the invisible end of the system that will gobble up all their money. So you still see many people queueing at banks and post offices, paying bills. I only did that when I absolutely had to, eg road tax, which until last year used to involve a wait for the payment slip to be sent to your address, and then you had to queue up at the bank to pay it and get a sticker as proof of payment (or a trip to your local tax department offices, if you preferred to pay in arrears, like many sods did).

This year, the Greek government decided to do away with the sticker thing, and make road tax payments a mainly online transaction. If a Greek police officer stops you, s/he can check if you've paid your road tax by entering your car's licence plate into the system (presumably, they are equipped to do this). There is no other way to prove that you've paid road tax. Hence, it's up to the state to ensure that people have paid their dues.

Most foreigners will know that Greeks love their cars, not wanting to walk anywhere when they know they can drive (this hasn't changed much). Most people have at least two cars per household. In the past, it was easy to cheat the system: Once a system cheat paid for a road tax sticker, they then went back to the tax department and claimed they'd lost it. The officials would then issue the cheat with a new sticker, which they simply stuck onto their second car, ie, they would only pay road tax on the first car, and the unpaid road tax on the second car remained unchecked, because there was no one bothering to do this.  At least now, the state won't be paying for worthless paper.

You may say that people can still get away with paying road tax like they did before in Greece, because the state and police are both inefficient. True, but at least the state won't be running up the expenses it used to run up in the past. Now that Greece is (finally) uphauling tax payments to a more transparent cross-referenced system, there is less chance of being able to cheat. It's getting harder to be able to cheat, and the cheats are now being caught out.

Some people will inevitably remain tax evaders and others will simply pay less tax even when they are making a lot of money, but that happens everywhere, as was recently pointed out by some critics in the UK of Starbucks, Amazon and Google, who belong to the case of 'legal tax evasion' - they pay a very low rate of tax because of a loophole in the law when they report greater losses than profits. And there are people who simply 'put off' paying their dues until the law catches up with them, by which time they have declared themselves bankrupt. But these are extreme cases: in general, we are all καλά φακελομένοι these days...

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If you are an ex-pat and live in Greece but don't speak Greek, here is how you pay Greek road tax:
  1. To pay without being registered in the online system, go to http://www.gsis.gr/
  2. Click on 'χωρίς κωδικούς'.
  3. Then click on 'EΙΣΟΔΟΣ' at the bottom right-hand corner.
  4. That will get you to a page with two blanks: in the first, enter your personal tax number (ΑΦΜ); in the second, enter your licence plate number (Aριθμός Κυκλοφορίας).
  5. Click 'ANAZΗΤΗΣΗ' - if your details are correct, you will see a message at the top of the boxes saying "Επιτυχής αναζήτηση. Πατήστε Εκτύπωση" (Successful search. Press Print).
  6. Press 'ΕΚΤΥΠΩΣΗ'. This will create a PDF file with your name, personal tax number, the amount you owe and your car's licence plate number, as well as a payment code. 
  7. Print this out and go to a bank to pay it - or simply use the e-banking services of your bank, like most people do in Western countries, using the payment code.
Greece may not have chosen the euro (it is more likely that the euro chose her), but the choice Greece is making now point to her Westernification. It's pretty much final - no more Ottoman excuses.

UPDATE 22/11/2012: Just heard from my cabbie husband that owners of uninsured vehicles will now be penalised through the tax department. One can assume that some digital vehicle registration ownership is now in place and is actually in use. No more excuses...

UPDATE 28/11/2012: Due to the fact that not all Greeks are connected online, it has been decided that you can pay it at a bank using just your personal tax number and car licence plate number (ie no need for an online printout). 

UPDATE 31/12/2012: And of course, there is always an extension granted in Greece for every tax bill you can think of. Every year, an extension is granted to car owners to pay their road tax, and in this case, it is up to one week. This is the reason why Greeks generally don't pay anything on time. Why should they, when they know they will be granted an extension to the expiry date?

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