ECONOMY

More than 1 in 3 property owners caught cheating

After several years of delays, the TAXIS computerized system installed in Greece’s tax offices is fully operational. This makes cross-checking of income declarations, and detecting inconsistencies or outright evasion, much easier. Soon, 329,496 property owners renting their properties will be called to account for either failing to declare any income from them (219,305) or declaring less income than stated in tenants’ income declarations (110,191). These numbers refer to incomes earned in 2001 and declared that year. There are a total of 936,520 owners who rent their properties in Greece. Thus, the TAXIS figures show, 35.18 percent of them fall afoul of the tax authorities. This does not mean that the rest declare all income they receive from tenants; there are many cases where property owners issue receipts for far less than the actual rent, with the tenants’ acquiescence. The computerization of the system has made it much easier to catch the worst offenders; five years ago, the number of confirmed cases of property owners hiding their income from tenancies was 87,869. The recent offenders will soon be invited by their local tax office to submit an additional income statement and pay a fine. In case they fail to show up, further investigation will take place and fines will be much higher; the investigation will be extended to previous years. While it took several months of checking and cross-checking to ferret out the previous year’s offenders, those owners and tenants submitting their income statements this year, for income earned in 2002, should be advised that cross-checking will be automatic. The same will be true for other tax declaration data, such as car ownership. Tax authorities will only begin cross-checking 2002 income statements for car ownership in a few days’ time. In the case of the 2003 statements, this will also be done automatically. It is not only property owners, however, who try to fool the tax authorities: It was also discovered that, of the 1,153,684 people who declared that they rented a property – either housing or commercial – 117,082 declared false owner tax register numbers. Some of these were mistakes, but others – the tax authorities didn’t say how many – were fraudulent. The latter category declared they were paying rent to earn a tax break.