BUSINESS

Online accommodation booking data reveal extent of tax evasion

PROKOPIS HATZINIKOLAOU

TAGS: Taxation, Tourism

It seems that every stone the tax authorities turn over reveals major instances of tax evasion. By checking the declaration of revenues through online travel platform Booking.com, the Independent Authority for Public Revenue discovered that considerable revenues had been concealed by hotels and other forms of tourism accommodation.

The targeted inspection was based on the detailed information of bookings via the VAT Information Exchange System (VIES) for 2015 and 2016, listing the commissions that Booking.com charged Greek enterprises for the guests it had brought them. The charges were used to estimate the revenues of accommodation units that were in turn compared to the actual declarations in the same period.

This electronic cross-checking of over 17,000 enterprises across Greece showed that more than 1,000 of them presented discrepancies between estimated and declared revenues each year. In around 90 the difference exceeded 50,000 euros, leading to orders for on-the-spot inspections.

The on-site monitoring has already identified around 40 enterprises that have hidden revenues amounting to 3 million euros in total, and 20 of them were found to have avoided paying taxes – and have had fines imposed on them – for this year too.

After the inspection of the 90 targeted companies is completed, the total hidden taxable revenues for the period from 2015 to 2017 are expected to exceed 8 million euros. Local tax offices will undertake the inspection of other enterprises where provisional findings have pointed to discrepancies.

The companies identified to have dodged paying taxes do not belong to any major hotel groups, but are mostly small and medium-sized units, with medium to high accommodation rates nevertheless.

Such is the case with a hotel at Halkidiki in central Macedonia, which for 2015 declared takings of just 10 euros from all its activities and in 2016 did not submit an income tax declaration at all. After the inspection it submitted an amended declaration for 2015 with gross revenues of 254,018 euros and for 2016 with takings of 120,256 euros.

Similarly, a firm that rents out furnished apartments on Zakynthos submitted incorrect statements in 2015, 2016 and 2017, with discrepancies totaling 211,648 euros.

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