Only two out of ten Greek tax-payers preferred to settle their real-estate tax (ENFIA) online
I read recently on an article published by the Greek newspaper Kathimerini (ΚΑΘΗΜΕΡΙΝΗ) that eight out of ten taxpayers preferred to queue for long hours in order to settle their real-estate tax and other income taxes visiting their local bank branch, rather than go online to do it, even though a significant amount of them have activated their online banking or telephone banking services. There was a comment from some bankers interviewed by the newspaper that drew my attention, claiming that the online payments they receive are usually for large sums; typically those who use internet banking pay large sums.
Can it be that Greeks enjoy waiting long hours in queues? Is it the “large sum” that makes somebody use internet-banking to settle their tax? I mean who wants to be walking in the middle of the day to a bank-branch with a suitcase full of money, right? But I wonder if the cause and effect are not that simple. It is a well established fact that those with higher income are more likely to have received a better education throughout their lives, and hence we can derive with some certainty that they are more competent in the use of electronic devices such as a personal computer (or equivalent).Being a Greek myself, and having lived a large portion of my life in Greece I am certain that there is one more issue at play; trust on electronic transactions.
The thing is that computer education is not that advance or common in Greece. Even though younger people would be familiar with technology at the same level with virtually anybody else from advanced countries, the truth is that the older people have not been able to keep up with high-tech change. The Greek state, I am sad to admit, has failed miserably to offer the necessary training to its more mature adult population.
I don’t want to try narrowing it down, though I would say the significant majority of those today over 50 years of age would not be very confident in either using or trusting electronic transactions.
So, the point I am trying to make here is not that people who use the internet tend to pay large sums because they can’t bother walking to the bank with a suitcase full of money, but because they are accustomed and confident in using electronic means for their transaction. This shows an existing large gap in the population; a split between those who have the “know how” and those who have not. Expanding on this someone could also suggest it is part of the evidence of income inequality together with educational inequality. Somebody could even suggest a failure of the role of the state to address these two core social concerns, namely education and income, but that is a topic I leave to experts such as Piketty.
What greater or better gift can we offer the republic than to teach and instruct our youth?