In your article ‘turning the state into a cash cow for public employees’ you correctly point out the return to years of fiscal irresponsibility similar to those of before the 2013 crisis which brought about the dissolution of the middle-class, family businesses and family savings in Cyprus. The final ‘nail in the coffin’ for the surviving members of the middle class is of course the privatisation of the state-owned co-operative banks.
Thinking about the Limassol Citizen’s Bureau which seems to provide an efficient and friendly service, I was wondering whether some –at least- of the government employees actually deserve their privileges.
These meandering thoughts quickly evaporated on a visit the income tax office housed above the central post office. My accountant had informed me that a demand for tax of a smallish amount 250 euro inexplicably from the tax year 2012 had been placed with him. He needed a copy of the tax declaration to see if this was a mistake or not. The owner of the declaration (me) had to appear personally to pick up the copy- not one of the accountant’s employees.
This is what happened in time order:
- Be told to get a stamp
- Get the stamp. Return to reception desk.
- Politely, told to go to a room. Not told where it is. Ask again. Go to the room number given to me at the front desk namely: ‘Room 9’. Informed that the employees change rooms regularly.No Room 9.
- Return for clearer instructions about the room number. Be told that it is 909.
- Return to the office ask for Room 909. Employee laughs and tells you it’s Room 9.
- Find Room 9. Told to go to the Help Desk. Ask where it is. Follow directions.
- Get a paper told to go to Room X. Ask where it is.
- No one in Room X.
- Sit and wait. Watch the clerks in the next room drinking coffee and having a chat- this was at least for half-an hour…
- Return to the Help Desk to point out that no one is in Room X.
- Told that the clerk’s gone to another floor or office to make some copies. She had sent some more people to this room.
- No photocopiers available nearby the offices which use them. All clerks in all offices waste time going backwards and forwards for copiers on other floors?
- Sit and wait.
- Clerk from Room X appears. Politely asks if he can help me. I need this tax declaration in my name. “What for?” We don’t give them out. It’s too long ago. I try to explain…
- Okay I’ll look for you. When? I’ll call you. When will you call? In two or three days.
Let’s see if he calls……
I suppose that this is another government ploy for collecting taxes that are unwarranted. Do I have to waste another morning with the costs involved or is it worth it just to pay the 250 euro? This is what the tax collector hopes working citizens will do – pay anyway. Certainly, there’s a mistake- just the ‘mistake’ is a matter of very clear policy. In other words, the grossly-inefficient workings of the income tax department is used very deliberately to assist with the collection of unwarranted taxes from citizens.
And of course the income tax department ‘banks’ (and how!) on the fact that no one would dare challenge them in public.