NEWS

Ministry to cast wider net to catch tax evaders

In a bid to root out Greeks who are hiding sources of income from tax authorities, the Finance Ministry approved on Thursday a more expansive form of checks that will allow inspectors to assess the full range of taxpayers’ assets and expenses.

According to a decision taken by the General Secretariat of Revenues, bank deposits, investment portfolios, cars, pleasure boats, loans, cash, real estate and consumer expenses will be among the factors that will be taken into account by tax officials.

They will particularly focus on individuals whose assets and standard of living cannot be justified by their income, who exhibit large expenses, who are involved in loss-making companies and anyone about whom they receive information regarding possible tax evasion.

The onus will be on the taxpayer to prove his or her source of income and justify assets or purchases, rather than inspectors having to prove the appropriate tax has not been paid.

Greece’s slow progress in combating tax evasion has been a sore point in the government’s negotiations with the troika but has also been the source of public displeasure.

In a separate development, police in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece, said on Thursday they had arrested the 50-year-old representative of a nongovernmental organization over alleged debts to the state of more than 1 million euros.

The NGO is called Hellenic Association for International Development. It received 509,541 euros of taxpayers’ money between 1995 and 2001 to help combat illiteracy among Muslims in North Korea, Romania, Ukraine, Palestine and Turkey. Sources at the Foreign Ministry said that the NGO had claimed funding illegally and that it would be asked to pay the money back.

The NGO is one of 398 that was funded by the Foreign Ministry when Alex Rondos, a former adviser to George Papandreou, oversaw Greece’s international development program. Rondos is one of eight people to have been charged in connection to alleged fraud by an NGO called the International Mine Initiative. He denies any wrongdoing.

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