Entrepreneurs Who Pay Taxes "Expect Services--Like Justice"
(p. B3) ATHENS -- Demetri Politopoulos, the founder of a midsize beer producer in northern Greece, says he nearly fainted when he heard the news late one night in October.
The Greek Parliament was planning to pass a law that would increase the tax he paid for each hectoliter of beer he sold by 50 percent.
Just like that, the microbrewery he started 17 years ago would go under, as his new tax bill of 1.6 million euros would wipe out his expected 1.45 million euros in profit for the year.
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He started his business in 1998, but even as demand for his Vergina beer grew, his share of the market stayed in the low single-digits as the market leader did all in its power to prevent shops and restaurants from selling his product.
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In 2005, Mr. Politopoulos took his case to the Hellenic Republic Competition Commission, citing numerous examples of what he said were unfair business practices by Heineken, from persuading retailers to not stock Vergina to more serious examples of bullying and intimidation.
But as is often the case in Greece, his petition went nowhere.
With Greece under unremitting pressure to find new revenue sources, the idea to close the gap between the way small and large brewers are taxed may have seemed a good idea.
That is, until Mr. Politopoulos took the floor in Parliament on Nov. 2.
"We are proud to pay taxes in Greece, but this is going to put us out of business," he said. "And when we do pay our taxes, we expect services -- like justice. Without justice in a society, there is nothing."
His 10-minute declamation hit a cord. A video of the speech went viral and parliamentary members rallied to his cause.
Indeed, concerns are growing here that in a rush to raise much-needed revenue, Greece and its creditors are placing an unfair burden on an already decimated private sector.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date DEC. 11, 2015, and has the title "In Greece, Brewer's Woes Reflect Struggle of Business Owners.")