Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Alex Watkins

THE SPAN­ISH tax of­fice (AEAT) is in­ves­ti­gat­ing 27,696 pen­sion­ers for not hav­ing de­clared the in­come they re­ceive from abroad.

The min­is­ter for the trea­sury, Cristóbal Mon­toro (pic­tured) in­sisted that 'they are not be­ing treated as fraud­sters'.

The in­for­ma­tion was re­vealed in re­ply to a par­lia­men­tary ques­tion by so­cial­ist deputy An­to­nio Hur­tado.

Sr Mon­toro in­sisted the num­ber is small in com­par­i­son with the to­tal of 800,000 ac­tions un­der­taken by the tax of­fice last year.

The probe is tar­get­ing for­eign pen­sion­ers who are res­i­dent in Spain and Spa­niards who have re­turned to the coun­try.

He ex­plained each case is be­ing stud­ied in­di­vid­u­ally, tak­ing ' per­sonal and fam­ily cir­cum­stances into ac­count', in­clud­ing their age, de­scen­dents or any disability.

The in­ten­tion is to al­low them to de­fer pay­ment or pay in in­stal­ments when­ever pos­si­ble ' so as not to harm the fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion of those af­fected'. Specif­i­cally, those with a debt of be­low €18,000 are be­ing granted ' au­to­matic de­fer­rals with­out hav­ing to pro­vide guar­an­tees' and more than 3,800 people af­fected by mak­ing their tax dec­la­ra­tions late have been granted de­fer­rals over a to­tal amount of €5.21 mil­lion.

Sr Hur­tado crit­i­cised the min­is­ter for pun­ish­ing these pen­sion­ers, when the govern­ment changed the law in 2012 to al­low 30,000 fraud­sters to ben­e­fit from a fis­cal amnesty.

He claimed these pen­sion­ers' only of­fence was to have re­ceived ' er­ro­neous in­for­ma­tion' from the tax of­fice about how they should treat their pen­sions from abroad.

"Giv­ing them in­for­ma­tion would have been enough to avoid this suf­fer­ing, be­cause they are not fraud­sters," he said.

The so­cial­ist also crit­i­cised the tax of­fice for fo­cus­ing the bulk of its in­spec­tions on pen­sion­ers and com­pany em­ploy­ees, who de­clare earn­ings on aver­age of €19,500 per year, com­pared to the less than €10,000 per year de­clared by big busi­ness own­ers.

This re­sulted in the amount of money re­cov­ered by the fight against tax fraud drop­ping for the first time in 23 years - by €600 mil­lion - last year.

"You are con­cen­trat­ing the fight against fraud on the people who are con­tribut­ing the most, but are gloss­ing over the ar­eas where there re­ally is very se­ri­ous fraud," added Sr Hur­tado.

Sr Mon­toro replied that the govern­ment had not given an amnesty, be­cause 'all the in­for­ma­tion is in the tax of­fice com­put­ers'.

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