Friday, 30 March 2012

Proof of Purchase

We've been to see an accountant. Seems that if you've purchased a car out here you have to complete a tax return every year, regardless of whether you're actually earning any money or not. It's the law. We only found this out by accident in conversation with another couple quite recently. They told us that every year their accountant prepares their largely empty Tax Return, calls them into the office to sign it, relieves them of about €40 for the privilege and submits the entirely unnecessary document to the government. Seems that we ought to have been enjoying the same thrilling experience for the past 6.5 years. Oops is the word that springs to mind. It doesn't bear thinking about how much paperwork the Greek civil service processes annually, at the end of which there is precisely nil income. All that expense for no return. Why is this country in a pickle, any ideas?

So we marched into the office of a bloke who a friend had recommended and put the situation to him. His response wasn't encouraging.

"You'll probably have to pay a fine for each year that you haven't submitted a return," he told us. "Ignorance is no excuse I'm afraid. It's usually around €60 for each return which you've missed." We're talking about six, going on seven years here folks. Maybe the word "oops" was understating things, eh?

The accountant listed for us all the various bits of paper which we'd need to pass to him in order for him to complete six identical returns, including the receipt for the purchase of the car, or a "certified" copy of it. We'd bought the car in November of 2005. You can't forget buying your first used car in Greece, always assuming you buy it legally that is, which we did, of course!

We'd bought it from a nice bloke who runs a small car hire business and - let's get one thing straight here - he sold us a very good car. At the time it was five years old and the price of €3000 was very fair. It was a five-door (well, funnily enough, still is) Suzuki Swift with a one litre engine. The vendor told us (we already knew him through John and Wendy before having made the move out here) that he wouldn't sell us a pig in a poke, or a lemon, a shed, or whatever is the Greek equivalent of all those things. He knew better than to do that because not only did he stand to lose all our referred business, but that of John and Wendy too, which was a lot of business for any single season. After all, they're here four or five times during a summer and usually bring along with them a son or two and assorted other relatives, all of whom also need a car for the duration. In fact, such a good customer is John that our vendor actually fitted a tow-bar at his own expense to one of his smaller 4x4's so that John could tow the jet-RIB whilst he's over here.

Time has born out the wisdom of our purchase. Our three cylinder, one litre Swift still doesn't burn a single drop of oil and it's now in its twelfth year. But I'm getting a bit tangent-like here, sorry. 

To return to the story. Buying a car in the UK, what do you do? You sign the bit at the bottom of the Registration Document and your vendor sends it off to DVLC Swansea. days later you receive the new document in your name through the post, right? It's not quite like that here.

If you're going to do it right, you and the vendor must present yourselves at the KTEO office, which is also a testing station for the roadworthiness test which we Brits euphemistically still call the MOT don't we? Once there, the pair of you go on a journey from desk to desk on two different floors of the building. At each desk different bits of paper are filled in, signed, rubber stamped (oh yes, a Greek civil servant would feel that they weren't doing the job if they couldn't bring one of those down with a thump every time they're face to face with a member of the public) and handed back so that you can carry it to the next desk.

Of course, at each desk there's probably already a couple of pairs of vendors/purchasers queuing up in front of you. Patience is a virtue. Aaaaaaaaaargh!! Now I feel better.

When you and your partner for the morning reach the front of the queue, the phone will doubtless ring and the person sitting before you will thrust the palm of his or her hand at you in a gesture which says, "I'm on the phone here. Wait until I've told my wife/girlfriend/best mate what time I'll be home/at the bar/the latest goss* before I deal with you." (*delete as appropriate)

Once you've successfully negotiated all the required stages and visited all the necessary desks, you can finally walk away with your registration document. In my case, It was at this juncture that I counted out the readies and handed them to my vendor, Makis, whilst we stood in a corridor before departing the building and going our separate ways. To be fair to Makis (Name changed!), he'd done it all correctly and I was now the totally legal owner of the car. But it doesn't end there, oh no. There's also a Government tax to be paid which requires that you take one of the bits of paper which you've been handed into a branch of the National Bank of Greece, where you'll tear off a ticket and wait in line for a "teller" to relieve you of the said tax, which is a three figure sum, by the way. Makis, bless him, had already paid over half of the sum I was due to hand over, so he'd given me a receipt to show that this portion of the tax was paid and I was only to pay the balance. To get one thing totally clear, he didn't diddle me in anyway and was totally transparent about the whole process. In fact, he'd even promised me that, were I have any kind of problem with the car during the first year of ownership, I only had to call him and he'd sort it at his own expense. He was true to his word here too, but that's another tale.

So anyway, the accountant had told me that I'd need to provide him with proof of the purchase of the car. He asked, "Do you have the receipt?" Now, to be honest, I couldn't ever remember Makis giving me one, but I promised the accountant that I'd search through my "car" file at home, because if I ever did have a receipt, then that's where it would be. There's no way I'd have thrown it away if I actually had received one, but, as I mentioned, I couldn't remember having done so.

Once back at home I searched the file as I'd promised to do and found no receipt. The better half was convince that I must have lost it, but I was quite sure that it would have been in the file if I'd ever had it, which I was now certain I hadn't. What to do now was the problem, since it could cause quite some difficulty with the tax return for the first year we'd resided on Rhodes.

"I know!" I shouted, in my best "Eureka" voice, "I'll call Makis and ask him if he's got an original from which he can supply me a copy. He's bound to have one as it was a business transaction, as he was selling me one of his old hire cars."

So I called Makis and explained the situation. Did he have a copy still on file and could he send me one? …which the accountant had also explained would need to bear his signature and a brief statement to the effect that it was genuine. Good old Greek bureaucracy. Anyway, Makis assured me that, yes, he did have an original in his file and he'd be happy to send me a certified copy in the mail, since it would be quicker than us going up to town to meet him. A couple of days later I called Athanasia at the Agapitos Taverna and she assured me that a letter had indeed arrived. Great, I told her I'd be up directly, which I was.

How much did I mention I'd paid for the car? That's right, €3000. Once home, I tore open the envelope and pulled out what was evidently a photocopy of the original receipt for the purchase, duly "rubber-stamped" with Makis's business details and signed and dated by the man himself. Always comes through, does Makis. Reading from the top down I found that indeed all the details were there, the description of the car, my address details and AFM (Greek Tax Number), and, in the right hand column, the price received for the sale. €1500. Ahem.

Now I was sure I'd been right about never having received a copy of the bill of sale at the time, in October 2005. I know I'd have remembered the slight discrepancy over the amount paid! Fortunately it wasn't going to make any difference to our tax returns, as long as there was evidence of the legal purchase of the vehicle.

Aaah, the quaint old ways of the Greeks.


  1. 'Quaint old ways of the Greeks' ! So you never had a copy because you'd have seen the 'error'. I'm not casting aspersions, we all do it, it's just that the Greeks have rather got a reputation at the moment. I do admire you though, finding time to write this latest blog when you should be packing. Safe journey to you both

    1. He's sharp that Trevor isn't he. Yes, in fact I began the post in Rhodes and finished it on my mum's dining room table here in Bath!!!

  2. Trevor Mcilveen31 March 2012 at 10:31

    To Vicki. The Manuels left Rhodes on 28 March. So John will have written this in the UK. Dedication to his readers eh !!!

  3. Oops, sorry thought it was 31st you were travelling, John. And Trevor, not so much dedication to his readers, more like he's had enough of England already! Only joking Hope you found everything was okay here, John.

    1. Took off from Rhodes in about 18ºC sunshine. Landed Gatwick in about 22ºC with very light winds! National Express got us to Bath and the local bus service to quite near my mum's house. All in all a good journey. Today it's cloudy and chilly, but it doesn't matter, my mother, some health issues notwithstanding, treats us like 5 star hotel guests!!!

  4. That's what mums are for LOL!