If you burn your butt…
…You have to sit on the blisters
That whole tax-issue with the Greeks, I don’t get it. Everyone’s condemning their black market and their massive fraud on tax declarations, but I think most of us would love to be a little more Greek and bend the rules a bit, especially where it concerns taxes. I mean, why would you tell the taxman about you precious baby-blue pool if you can get away with it? Everyone else does it, anyway, so why shouldn’t you?
Fenna works as a young corporate lawyer for an international firm at the Zuidas, Amsterdam’s beating financial heart. Sometimes amused, sometimes bewildered, she observes the comings and goings in this one square kilometre of Dutch high-rise. Fenna is not her real name – much better to slip under the radar.
We’re all just pointing fingers, conveniently ignoring the fact that in the Netherlands grand-scale tax-fraud is still commonplace if we talk about, let’s say, company cars. If you don’t exceed the five hundred kilometres a year threshold, you get a lucrative tax-cut. I know the Netherlands is a small country, but no more than five hundred kilometres a year? Sure. Two rides to the Albert Heijn and back and there you are. A couple years back, the Dutch tax department got fed up with it and started to take pictures of number plates at the Efteling, our Dutch Disneyworld but smaller, to check how many ‘less-than-five-hundred-kilometres-cars’ had driven from their homes all the way to Brabant. For most people that’s an easy two hundred kilometres in just one day. They handed out large numbers of fines that year. Turned out everybody made that third drive to the Albert Heijn.
So yes, I understand Greek people. I myself once pulled a Goldman Sachs while applying for my mortgage. No reason why the bank should know about my student loans, right? I must admit that maybe this wasn’t the smartest move. After signing a dizzying amount of paperwork, I was the proud owner of an expensive apartment and ditto interest repayments. A few unexpected bills later, I was suddenly broke. Very broke.
An old Dutch proverb goes: if you burn your butt, you must sit on the blisters. I think you get the meaning and the English equivalent sounds very boring to me. Anyhow, I needed a plan, and I needed it fast. After some research into my spending behaviour, the maltreatment of my salary and savings account became painfully clear. Who needs to spend six hundred euros on clothes three months in a row? No wonder I was searching for change in my drawers and old jackets to buy milk.
So I turned to my fellow countrymen for advice and started doing what we’re good at: being frugal. The story goes that the Netherlands received a significantly higher amount of funds out of the Marshall-plan because the Dutch first lady served one (yes, one) dry biscuit to the American Commissioner who came to pay a visit. Reason enough to trust us with billions. I just never behaved like that myself: I preferred to lavish my guests with champagne and oysters. During my own financial debt crisis, I quickly replaced those with prosecco and salty sticks (only 18 cents at the Appie, a real bargain).
Those salty sticks sure paid off. Things are looking up – I can now proudly announce that I’m actually saving for my tax bills of next year. I even managed to set aside enough money to buy a washer dryer, a real dream come true.
Of course, maybe it wasn’t the best of ideas to include Greece in the Eurozone, but was there really no way to see what was coming? Money was being pumped into Greece since it joined the European Union in 1981, without any significant results. The Greek didn’t pay their taxes then, so why start doing so after becoming a member state without any economic incentive on a personal level? The European Union stood by and watched, so in a way we are also responsible for what is happening in Greece. We have let this happen.
So Greece, here’s what you need to do. Invite the heads of state of all Eurozone members. Invite the new head of the IMF. Throw in some CEO’s from various European banks. Serve them just one cookie and pray for the best. In the meantime, I will support Greek economy by buying feta cheese and Kalamata olives. I’d happily give up my salty sticks for those.