TAX OFFICE TARGETS EXPAT PENSIONERS
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'.