Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Greek taxmen may be dodging taxes, too

Tax inspectors in Greece are underpaid, working in poor conditions and some 130 of them have personal bank accounts abroad - possibly indicating tax evasion, according to an internal report by the IMF and EU.

Leaked to Greek media on Thursday (28 February), the draft report casts a grim light on the Greek government's efforts to shake up its tax collection system as part of the bailout requirements demanded from international creditors.

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  • Corruption and political meddling still hamper tax collection in Greece (Photo: Chris Tolworthy)

More than half of tax collectors are over 50 years old, underpaid, in some cases even lacking an own desk or computer, the 72-page report says.

Internal checks also found evidence that some 130 tax inspectors have bank accounts abroad, a sign of possible tax evasion.

Reforms undertaken by the Greek government are "muddled" and "slow", leaving the tax collecting system still prone to "political tampering or corruption."

Last year, Greece only collected €1.1 billion in overdue taxes, a little over half of its declared target of €2bn. The state still has to claw back some €55 billion, amounting to 30 percent of the country's national output, the report says. But many of the companies owing taxes have gone bankrupt.

The international experts doubt that Greece will manage to meet its tax collection target for 2013 without immediately hiring some 200 new inspectors and focusing on the 1,500 biggest debts.

In reaction to the leaked report, Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras said that "a lot has happened" since January when the paper was drafted.

"We are carefully studying everything, and, taking the comments into account, we will proceed," he told reporters in Athens on Thursday.

The Greek finance ministry put out a statement saying that 1,680 out of the 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts on the informal list drafted by the IMF chief Christine Lagarde had been identified and their tax declarations are being checked.

The troika of officials from the EU commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund is returning to Athens on Sunday to begin its review needed for the next bailout tranche to be disbursed. Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday are also likely to discuss the Greek situation.

Tax revenues are an important factor in the troika evaluation, with latest budget data showing a €300 million shortfall in January. February also ended with a gap, but Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told lawmakers earlier this week the revenue intake gap will be covered by spending cuts.

The news of further cuts comes as the population is already under intense strain. A quarter of the workforce is unemployed and the country is in its sixth year of recession.

French leader promises anti-tax-cheat crusade

French leader Hollande has promised to "eradicate" tax havens in the EU and in the wider world, after his approval rating fell to 26 percent following a tax scandal.

Baltic states demand bigger EU budget

The leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania say in a joint letter that they are open to talks on creating "new own resources" for a bigger EU budget after the UK leaves the EU.

Analysis

We are not (yet) one people

Talks on the next EU budget will start on Friday. Brussels wants to do much more than before – and needs a lot more money. But arguing about funds won't be enough.

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