DW — Kostas Giannopolous, founder of the charitable organization “Hamogelou Tou Paidiou” (A Child’s Smile) has run out of patience. For 20 years, the software engineer has been helping children in need in Greece. He has constantly struggled against bureaucracy and underfunding. The worries have not lessened since the refugee crisis. In the port of Piraeus alone, sixty volunteer doctors have been working for the organisation around the clock.
The state shows barely any gratitude; as a matter of fact, it has even made a demand for a payment of over 53,000 EUR, as non-profit organisations are also obligated to pay ENFIA, the property tax that was implemented in the crisis-ridden nation in 2012. Prime Minister Tsipras clearly promised that he would abolish the loathed tax. Yet the tax is still being charged and it is suffocating the organisation that is funded almost exclusively by donations. This is not an isolated case – even SOS Children’s Villages are complaining about their 92,000-euro ENFIA tax bill.
“The high taxation prevents us from helping even more children,” warns Giannopoulos in an interview with DW. He cites another example: In Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, a well-to-do citizen allowed “A Child’s Smile” to temporarily use a multistory building free of charge so that at least 50 children could receive care. However, the donor took back his offer after he had received an ENFIA bill of over 50,000 EUR. He could not afford to pay such a large bill without rental income. Giannopoulos explains that the government had originally promised to re-evaluate the ENFIA tax for non-profit organisations in order to avoid harsh taxation, but it seems like nothing has come of that.
More and more debt defaults
Meanwhile, the amount of outstanding debt to the state has reached a sad new climax. Figures released on Monday show that tax authorities have registered 90 billion euros of unpaid debts. If the slump in government revenues continues, Prime Minister Tsipras will have to make some painful budget adjustments that Greece has promised its creditors. A lot depends on whether the ENFIA property tax can generate the desired additional revenue of 3 billion euros. What else can Greece do? Kostas Giannopoulos asks the same question. “A few years ago, before the recent change of government in Athens, we once refused to pay the ENFIA tax; subsequently, our bank account was seized. Of course, that is also not an option for us,” says the head of “A Child’s Smile.”