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Saturday, 25 January 2014

'Greece offers you something harder'

The start of Lawrence Durrell's first book Prospero's Cell: A guide to the landscape and manners of the island of Corcyra 1945

The sublime and the ridiculous are often so nearly related, that it is difficult to class them separately. Thomas Paine
I'm pretty confident Lawrence Durrell’s family didn’t engage in anything so banal as completing a local tax return when they lived here long ago, nor needed 'pink slips'...
Pink slips accompanying local bank withdrawals prove we bring our money from the UK sure as I am great Achilles didn't have to tear off the fiddly strips of silver paper on top of small cartons when adding milk to his coffee, if he drank coffee or would have drunk it as anything but skirto …unless this seems a cheap trick it’s a memo to myself that the membrane between bathos and the sublime is permeable, sometimes as brittle as courtship – a looking glass - but mostly an ever-present screen through which musings flow as easily in both directions as a stand-up who dies one night and brings the house down the next…
A friend sent this to us:
If you have to declare income in Greece this year, you will need a lot of patience. From this year onwards, all tax returns will be submitted only online, but this will not facilitate the process. To the contrary, you will not get away with waiting in queues at the tax office or with the bureaucratic madness, which we are familiar with at present. The only way to deal with another administrative obstacle is to find information and a lot of patience….To be able to fill in the tax return in Greece, you must have a code to use the online state tax system TAXIS. How to obtain this code: 
1. Go to
2. Choose "Initial registration" (Αρχική εγγραφή)

3. Choose whether you will fill in the tax return as an individual person or as an entity
4. Fill in the requested information

5. Then, go to your local tax office to obtain the codes to fill in the tax return.Since the beginning of the week, the queues at the tax offices for obtaining the access codes to the system have been enormous. People have been waiting for hours to be able to return home and start filling in the tax returns online…GR Reporter 28 May 2013 Tax pains 2013)

From p.5 Tax Guide For Residents Abroad’ Directorate General of Taxation, Directorate General of Customs and Special Consumption Tax, Athens, June 2008   …. Greek tax guidance
2. WHO MUST FILE A RETURN? More specifically, those residing abroad must file a tax return in Greece, if ….Regardless of whether they have a taxable income in Greece, they shall file a return when…(e) they have purchased real estate or constructed a building in Greece…
Our Greek accountant in Corfu town is excellent but once he had dealt with the fines we needed to pay for a few years unsubmitted tax forms (ignorance of the law, as everywhere, being no excuse for its breach) it made sense that rather than waste his fee submitting further annual confirmation that we earn no money in Greece, we should ourselves file a return to this effect, doing it, as is now possible and indeed required, on-line. 
The first step Lin and I learned from our friend Cinty was to get a one-time key code from the tax office to access and register ourselves with the Hellenic tax office website.
“Where’s the tax office?”
“In the Town Hall just off San Rocco Square, opposite the Theatre”  
Ah yes, down St Dessilas or Manzarou Streets off G Theotoki, where they meet Samaras Street. These offices are not to be mistaken for the Municipal Assembly building which is half-way along N.Theotoki. We needed to meet the bureaucracy.
We rose at dawn to get there early and were in the foyer of our target building by just before 9.00am, ranging the dim-lit space like sniffer dogs, in our case seeking signage. I poked my head into a small open plan on the ground floor
“Tax office, please?””
One of two women sat in shadow turned from her small crowded desk to gaze at us before peering upwards.
“Up a floor, I think” I said to Lin. 
At the top of two flights was a long screen with a few people at windows talking through to people behind. Promising. We assayed an eastward corridor. There were numbers on doors, titles, notices in abundance but nothing indicative. I knocked hopefully on a door and heard an invitation to enter.
“Where do we go for tax?”
A hand was stretched out and a finger pointed back where we came, with a suggestion we wind leftwards beyond the head of the stairs we’d climbed. Round a corner in the colourless gloom we came upon a ragged queue of people standing and seated near a half-open door in a cul-de-sac - a corridor of powerless.
“Excuse me. Does anyone speak English?”
Silence of the waiting, then a lady smiled and said “Yes”
“Where do we go to file our tax?”
“Here” She indicated the door marked with a number 9 – handwritten - just opposite where she sat. Was she at the head or the end of the queue?
“Can we do it on the computer?”
“Yes. But you need a key”
“Can we get that here?”
“You must ask an accountant I think”
“We would like to do it ourselves”
“Yes but you need an accountant to get you a key”
“Perhaps we should cut our losses at this stage” I murmured to Lin and we turned to descend.
“A moment” I said “I really want to see what this room looks like”
I insinuated myself through the queue breathing English apologies and put my head round the door. The room was smaller than I expected with less than four desks and screens – long ones with cathodes.
“So sorry” I gazed around with as much pathos as I could manage “Does anyone speak English?”
Two women head-gestured me to the woman nearest the door “Georgia”
She was already with a client.
“What do you want?”
“We need a key to file a tax return”
“Wait a moment. You have your tax numbers?”
“Yes yes. All that and passports. Shall we wait outside now?
‘No no”
Urgently I call Lin to join me.
“Quick quick” I made apologetic gestures to the woman already waiting.
Lin read out our tax numbers.
“Your passports” 
Lin handed them over. 
I felt excited; made more apologies to the other client who smiled in a sweet way “No problem”
“Thank you. Thank you so much” 
My heart was full of a grateful supplicant’s deference and amity as we left after a short telephone exchange that brought us our one-time keys and passwords.
“Is the website also in English?” Lin asked as we left
“I think so”
Looking away from the queue by the door we headed down to the street
Outside the tax office "Yes!"

“Blimey blimey” I gasped as “we’ve been in there less than 30 minutes”
Lin sparing with praise said “Well done that Baddeley”
We drove home via Sally’s Bar at Ipsos where Lin found the site as well as a tax guide that could be downloaded as a PDF. It was in English but the website was in Greek.
“Cinty’s place?”
Back in the village Cinty made us tea and coffee and sat with Lin as she entered our key numbers and registered…

“We’re in!”
Clicking on the options for the forms we needed, none, said the computer in red text, applied to us.
“Oh well. We’ve done alright so far and the return doesn't have to be until May"
“Put a request for help on Corfu Grapevine on Facebook” suggested Cinty

Hi there. Helpful and informative advice needed with on-line tax forms. Linda and I have registered for Greek on-line tax form submission. Our accounts are now open, but we don't know which form we have to fill in. We're non-resident but own a house on the island, retired and receiving no Greek income. Our money comes from UK and we have pink-slips to that effect. Could anyone please tell us which form we need to click on for this? Thanks in advance. Simon & Linda
  • Marion Kirkham glad you mentioned this simon as we to have a place in kassiopi and were at a loss also.
  • Simon Baddeley Have you registered for on-line submission, Marion? We felt pretty proud at getting our key code from the tax office in town in only 40 minutes - thanks to a kind lady working in room 9 on the first floor. Now we are 'in' the system' it has come up with a list of forms (with the help of a Greek speaking friend) and we cannot find the one that's appropriate for our situation.
  • Marion Kirkham not yet we were going to do it when we go back in the spring not relizing we could do it online...
  • Simon Baddeley The lady at the office said the on-line forms might be in English but we could not find that, which is why a Greek friend has been so helpful. You can use English in the form - username, passwords, tax code etc.
  • Marion Kirkham ahh thank you,,,
  • Annie McGiggles Hawkins We always get our accountant to do this for just to be on the safe side.
  • Simon Baddeley That makes sense, Annie, if you're running a local business or otherwise earning money here, especially with recent unpredictable tax rules, but we are trying to save ourselves the cost of an accountant's expertise given that we've only to make an annual and routine declaration of non-earning.
  • Uschi Niemann Simon, I think Annie is totally right - even if you don't have a business or work here. Things change so quick at the moment, that even with reading all news you will never be sure... I'm in the same situation and would never do t without accountant. Can give you the adress of a reliable one as soon as I am back to Corfu next week.
  • Roddy McKenzie I have lived permanently on Corfu for 8 years now, have NO Greek sourced income and use a Greek accountant in Corfu town. Charges 80 euro and worth every penny/cent. Negotiating the constantly changing Greek tax laws for a non Greek is a nightmare..tried it first year here and gave up.
  • Tricia Giles This is from last year but it may be helpful to you even though you are non-resident. 
    "According to the international convention applied so far, a citizen has to pay tax in the country where he or she resides for 183 days a year or more. If the person receives income in another country in parallel, it must be included in the tax return, adding the tax withheld in the other country in order for the tax service to deduct it."
    If you have to declare income in Greece this year, you will need a lot of patience. From this year onwards, all tax returns will be submitted only online, but this will not facilitate the process. To the contrary, you will not get away with waiting in queues at the tax office or with the bureaucrati...
  • Tricia Giles We use an accountant who does all the form filling for us and it has never cost us more than €60. Money well spent in my opinion!
  • Annie McGiggles Hawkins We too have no income in Greece, but feel much safer using an accountant and for between €60 and €90 euros per annum would consider it money very well spent. After all, it's only 7.5€ per month at the highest figure. A drop in the ocean. Would hate to fall foul of the Greek tax system.
  • Susan Daltas If you really really want to get in a mess carry on without an accountant! Would you suggest a student in Birmingham tries to get a Ph.D without a professor?
  • Susan Daltas Didn't mean the above to sound rude, Simon.
  • Tricia Giles Even the accountants struggle to keep up with the ever-changing tax laws! We would have no chance without one!
  • Kerry Davison Simon. Paying an accountant is alot cheaper than paying the fine should you make a mistake. I would recommend xxx on xxxx who does my tax return and is very reasonable.
  • Moyra Flynn We're in the same position and definitely recommend using an accountant. Like Annie, it only costs about 60 euro a year. Well worth it. Good luck.
  • Louise Edwards My husband is Greek and even he uses an accountant to make sure he gets it right.
  • Uschi Niemann Only thing I was told is "ask your accountant every year to show you the papers to be sure, he did it!" because unfortunately and apparently there are some, who tell you, they will care and then don't  Problem is ,if you ever want to or have to sell your property, you definitely need those papers for every single year - if you don't have them, you cannot sell!
  • Tricia Giles For a simple tax return, and I know that people still debate this but we have been told that as long as you have all your pink slips there will not be a problem. Even if you are told you don't need them still get them just in case the powers that be change their minds - again!
  • Simon Baddeley Thanks for all this kind and cautionary advice. How about a poem about the man who tried to submit his tax return in Greece without an accountant (:)) No-one was 'rude' by the way but one of the accountant's mentioned 'forgot' to make our returns and we had to pay three years of fines. I think we may end up getting our present accountant to teach us how to submit our tax on-line even if that costs more. Principle: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime...or is that not relevant here?
  • Tricia Giles I'm not so sure it is relevant when tax related matters are changing so frequently here! 
    19 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 1
  • Simon Baddeley We do UK tax returns on line from home. So I will persist with trying to do our Greek tax return on line. If for no other reason it's a holy good way to get better at writing and reading Greek. That's a winner even if we get it wrong! (If I fall flat on my face as a result of hubris I will be honest and let CG know what happened). What I absolutely know is that we are so grateful for Greek friends who have helped and continue to help with this process. It's almost as if they sympathise with our struggle. We certainly sympathise with theirs. S
  • Tricia Giles Rather you than me these days but good luck!
    18 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Simon Baddeley Appreciated Tricia. S
  • Susan Daltas Well done for sticking to your guns despite all the contrary advice!
    16 hours ago · Unlike · 1
  • Heather Skinner Simon Baddeley, I've done my own tax return in the UK for years, I had the good fortune of working closely with accountants who gave me good advice on what I needed to do to get me started all those years ago, but since moving here I am definitely going to take the hit on paying a few euros to a GOOD Greek accountant to sort out what needs to be filed on my behalf - my suggestion would be to ask for recommendations of an accountant here who won't charge you the earth and who will do what they say they will do on your behalf. Best of luck to you if you stick to your guns
    13 hours ago · Edited · Unlike · 1
**** ****
The rain comes more frequently now - day and night - wind blown shallow streams of water running up and down Democracy Street. Photography doesn't do so well depicting rain. I need the lines in the sky that the Japanese do to get the sense of what this feels like, as water descends from the overcast with its quiet roar like falling rice on our sturdy roof, big drops racing down the glass of our few unshuttered windows, the clouds pushing up the grey-green slopes behind the village.
Hokusai Night rain

*** *** ***
Draft short account that might be suitable for Wikipedia:

The sculptor Aristedes Zacharias Metallinos (Αριστείδη Ζαχ. Μεταλληνος), brother to Spiros and Xthoforos, one of three sons of  Zacharias and Eleni Metallinos, was born in 1908 (no official record of birth date) and died at 79 on 19 May 1987. He spent the greatest part of his life working as a general craftsman in the village of Ano Korakiana on the island of Corfu in Greece. Despite early evidence of his imaginative talent as a carver of stone, Metallinos was prevented by poverty from artistic training. He did not begin his work as a self-taught sculptor until 1973, when at the age of 67 until his death in 1987, he fulfilled a long held intention of creating, in local stone and marble, a unique record of the fast changing social life of the village’s pastoral economy, emphasising the role of the family and traditional customs. To this the sculptor carved, as his work evolved, a commentary on human nature and the world - one that was often pungent, erotic and at times ribald. His work of over 250 pieces, nearly all completed in the last 12 years of his life, is kept together in a family museum in Ano Korakiana - a museum he built himself, intending it as a gift to the village. Aristedes' first wife, Eleni, died childless. The sculptor was married again, late in life, to Angeliki, who bore him two children, Andreas and Maria. Andreas, and his wife Anna, continue to live in Ano Korakiana in the museum that houses a unique collection of work largely unknown outside the village in which it was created. 
(I cannot hope to get this accepted as a Wikipedia article without external references - so I need to get these for the additional papers Angeliki has copied to me, one of them - Δημοσιεύθηχε στο περιοδικό Μυριόβιβλος 7 (1985) . σελ. 37-47. I realise that until now I've been spelling his first name 'Arestides'. In English it should be 'Aristedes')
Plaque on the museum - the date 1973 - when Arestides Metallinous, aged 65, signed himself a sculptor, and also - mark the trowel - showing himself as the builder of the house in which he planned to display his work for the village

*** *** ***
So beloved Amy allows us to go public on the arrival in July of another grandchild.
Our daughter's four month scan (photo: Richard Baddeley)
*** *** ***
We missed the cutting of the Vasilopita cake this year. We shall also miss Clean Monday Καθαρά Δευτέρα, on 3 March this year, the first day of Lent, and the Ano Korakiana Carnival, (2010 record) but need to return to England for some weeks:

Η κοπή της πίτας με μουσική και χορό - The cutting of the cake with music and dancing
pitafilarm2014b.jpgΠραγματοποιήθηκε απόψε στο «Luna D’ Argento» η ετήσια εκδήλωση της Φιλαρμονικής για το κόψιμο της πρωτοχρονιάτικης πίτας.Το πρόγραμμα περιελάμβανε την παρουσίαση μουσικών συνόλων, απαρτιζομένων κυρίως από νεαρούς μουσικούς με τη συνοδεία των δασκάλων τους (κλαρίνα, φλάουτα, βαρύτονα, κρουστά) και στη συνέχεια χορούς από τα τμήματα του Χορευτικού του Συλλόγου. Πολύ ωραία ήταν η παρουσία των μικρών χορευτών που παρουσίασαν ένα μικρό σκετς με τους μήνες του χρόνου, υπό την καθοδήγηση της Νίκης Κένταρχου.

Η εκδήλωση άνοιξε με αγιασμό και την κοπή της πίτας από τρεις εκπροσώπους των τμημάτων του Συλλόγου (Μπάντας, Χορωδίας και Χορευτικού). Στη συνέχεια έλαβε το λόγο η αντιπρόεδρος του Συλλόγου Δώρα Μεταλληνού, που αναφέρθηκε στη σημασία της Τέχνης στους ζοφερούς καιρούς που περνάμε και μετέφερε τις ευχές του Προέδρου της Διοίκησης Σπύρου Σαββανή.Ακολούθως απηύθυναν σύντομο χαιρετισμό η αντιδήμαρχος Κέρκυρας Φανή Τσιμπούλη και η Πρόεδρος του ΔΗΠΕΘΕ Όλγα Καποδίστρια, ενώ η υπεύθυνη του Χορευτικού Ηλέκτρα Μαρτζούκου και ο αρχιμουσικός Κώστας Ζερβόπουλος παρουσίασαν το πρόγραμμα της βραδιάς και τους συντελεστές.

pitafilarm2014d.jpgΣτο τέλος, ένα κομμάτι πίτας (χορηγία της Πέπης Ιωνά) ανέμενε όλους τους παρευρεθέντες, με το τυχερό νόμισμα να πέφτει στην Ελευθερία Τσιριγώτη.

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