New blue­print takes aim at tax eva­sion

Gov’t sees rev­enues of 11.8 bil­lion eu­ros

Kathimerini English - - Business & Finance -

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou an­nounced a set of mea­sures yes­ter­day to com­bat tax eva­sion, ren­der the tax authorities more efficient and col­lect 11.8 bil­lion eu­ros by 2013, while promis­ing to pub­lish lists of tax evaders.

With tax eva­sion es­ti­mated at about 25 to 35 per­cent of Greece’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, as the fi­nance min­is­ter re­it­er­ated, con­tain­ing the phe­nom­e­non has al­ways been a tar­get for all gov­ern­ments, and quite an elu­sive one at that. The min­istry is aim­ing at 1.5 bil­lion eu­ros in ex­tra rev­enues this year, 4.4 bil­lion in 2012 and 5.9 bil­lion in 2013.

Speak­ing at a press con­fer­ence in Athens, Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou an­nounced a three-year plan that pro­vides for the open­ing of tax­pay­ers’ bank ac­counts, par­tic­u­larly those with de­posits abroad, and the mon­i­tor­ing of the ori­gin of the money de­posited. Al­ready, there are on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with Switzer­land for Greece to re­ceive a list of ma­jor de­posits by Greeks in Swiss banks.

The plan fur­ther dic­tates the new role of the fi­nan­cial po­lice, who will con­duct more tar­geted checks and re­fer to the Cit­i­zens’ Pro­tec­tion Min­istry, just like the main po­lice force. The court pro­cess­ing of cases will be ac­cel­er­ated to avoid the de­lays seen nowa­days. The new head of the tax col­lec­tion mech­a­nism is Ioan­nis Di­o­tis, the pros­e­cu­tor who rose to promi­nence dur­ing the Novem­ber 17 terrorism case.

Many tax of­fices will be merged, which the gov­ern­ment thinks will make the mech­a­nism more flex­i­ble, al­though this may mean even longer queues for tax­pay­ers. The plan is to have only one tax of­fice per pre­fec­ture.

The gov­ern­ment is hop­ing to reap 4 bil­lion eu­ros by 2013 by up­grad­ing mon­i­tor­ing mech­a­nisms such as the fi­nan­cial po­lice, and 5.2 bil­lion eu­ros from the im­prove­ment of debt col­lec­tion mech­a­nisms, such as abol­ish­ing all tax ex­emp­tions for tax dodgers. In ad­di­tion, they will be un­able to ben­e­fit from mea­sures such as the re­cent tax amnesty for the self-em­ployed.

Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou also warned that his min­istry will pub­lish lists of tax­pay­ers with sig­nif­i­cant ar­rears to the tax authorities. “The Fi­nance Min­istry will pub­lish the names of those who have tax debts be­fore the three-month dead­line pro­vided by the law,” the min­is­ter stated.

The mea­sure con­cerns debts in ex­cess of 150,000 eu­ros which have been over­due for more than one year.

The min­is­ter fur­ther an­nounced that in about a month and a half, the “re­ceipts smart­card” will be ready for use, re­liev­ing tax­pay­ers of the obli­ga­tion to col­lect pa­per re­ceipts for their ex­pen­di­ture. The min­istry is plan­ning an on­line sys­tem con­nect­ing all re­tail out­lets via their cash reg­is­ters with the Gen­eral Sec­re­tariat for In­for­ma­tion Sys­tems.

The mar­ket’s first re­ac­tion to the mea­sures was quite neg­a­tive. The head of the Athens Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try, Con­stanti­nos Micha­los, branded the mea­sures “a utopia,” stress­ing that the state does not ful­fill its own obliga- tions. “Un­for­tu­nately the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to ig­nore re­al­ity and seems un­able to adapt to its own view and ac­tions,” his state­ment read. He added that “the gov­ern­ment is the one with the big­gest debt to the pri­vate sec­tor, and there­fore it can­not per­suade any­one about its good in­ten­tions or cre­ate an at­mos­phere of trust.” The new mea­sures only have a polic­ing char­ac­ter and thus can­not bear fruit, Micha­los ar­gued.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Gior­gos Pa­pa­con­stanti­nou speaks at a press con­fer­ence in Athens yes­ter­day flanked by Re­gional De­vel­op­ment and Com­pet­i­tive­ness Min­is­ter Michalis Chryso­choidis (left) and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Haris Kas­tani­dis.

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