Greeks living abroad manage to conform to the laws of their chosen countries and thrive in their new environments, however in Greece the law of the jungle prevails.
A short documentary, ‘Tax Evasion, a Greek National Sport’, freely released to the wider public ahead of the 7 July elections, aims to explain the mentality of Greek taxpayers and their view on tax evasion.
Los Angeles-based director Kelly Sarri told Neos Kosmos that her goal when creating the documentary was to document tax evasion for people worldwide to have a better understanding of the endemic problems in what appears to be a Catch-22 spiral of higher and higher taxes leading to even more rampant corruption – so much so that it has almost become commonplace.
“I know Greece had or still has a bad reputation for not paying taxes so I wanted to examine this and then tell the story from a point of view that is not that well-known to most people. I felt that there are some important facts that everyone needs to know before forming an opinion,” Sarri said.
“Greece, apart from the beaches and the sun, is also related to corruption. Since most Greeks in the past would consider the government their ‘enemy’ they used to evade their taxes but nowadays this has become a necessity.”
The documentary exposes a number of underlying socioeconomic issues at play when Greeks choose not to pay their taxes. A number of those interviewed point to an extraordinarily high tax burden that makes it unsustainable for people to pay their full share of taxes in accordance with the law and survive. Business and employees alike point to having no other recourse when taxes are three quarters worth of their intake, while job seekers pointing out that they prefer being ‘paid under the table’ as their salary would not be sustainable otherwise nor would they be hired if they were to request an amount compatible with living costs.
As a former Greek resident, she was able to get a unique, multi-faceted perspective to an ongoing Greek problem. Examining tax evasion today, she points to changes regarding EU-enforced regulations since she left her homeland. “But unfortunately, the tax rates are so high that people now sometimes cannot afford to pay,” she said, adding that the problem will persist for as long as the taxes are high in proportion to real wages.
“There are a lot of solutions but the problem is that none of the effective ones take place. There has been a change. But not (enough) to prevent the problem and thus the situation worsens,” she said of Greece’s vicious spiral.
A victim of Greece’s economic crisis herself, Sarri has been living in LA since the summer of 2015. “I came to Los Angeles to study at LMU and get my MFA in Film & TV Production. I wanted to go to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film and TV because in Greece this field is lacking and, especially after the crisis, the industry got affected very badly,” she said.
The documentary, which took a year to make, saw Sarri go through a long process that included two visits to Greece. “The post-production lasted longer than what happens with documentaries,” she says.
“Although I know that it is not very popular for a woman to make a film about economy, that was what intrigued me the most to do it.”
“During that process was when the film was actually shaped. It was pretty hard to do the research because I had no background in economics and then it was very difficult to find people to talk to me on camera. However, I manage to overcome any difficulties and create a piece that illustrates the core of the problem.”
Satisfied with the end result, Sarri hopes that it could lead to a greater understanding of the plight of Greece’s citizens. “A lot of people told me that after watching the film, they have a better understanding of the situation and that was my ultimate goal,” she said.
Watch the film below: