Monday, April 11, 2016
Why Greeks' swap of cash for cards could end a culture of tax evasion
Christian Science Monitor
April 11, 2016
Mary Plakaki likes to carry cash on her at all times. So when Greece limited the amount of withdrawals last summer to avoid financial catastrophe, she got her first debit card. Now she uses the card for whatever purchase she can, so that her stockpile of on-hand cash is always full.
Math student Tassos Tassoulas uses his debit card for the opposite reason. Ever since he was pickpocketed, he prefers his wallet as thin as possible. He now carries 30 euros max.
And for retired politician Ioannis Varvitsiotis, the new use of his debit card has less to do with cash flow and more to do with convenience, he says – and the fact that it’s simply the correct thing to do. Today he refuses to eat at a restaurant if it doesn’t accept electronic payment.
For all of the hardship that capital controls have placed on Greek society, there’s been one upside: across generations and class and for differing motivations, more Greeks are turning to plastic, in a nation where cash has always reigned. It’s what Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens, calls an eight-month “natural experiment in cards.”