New blueprint to beat tax evasion

Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou announced a set of measures on Monday to combat tax evasion, render the tax authorities more efficient and collect 11.8 billion euros by 2013, while promising to publish lists of tax evaders.

With tax evasion estimated at about 25 to 35 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product, as the finance minister reiterated on Monday, containing the phenomenon has always been a target for all governments, and quite an elusive one at that. The ministry is aiming at 1.5 billion euros in extra revenues this year, 4.4 billion in 2012 and 5.9 billion in 2013.

Speaking at a press conference in Athens along with three other ministers, Papaconstantinou announced a three-year plan that provides for the opening of taxpayers? bank accounts, particularly those with deposits abroad, and the monitoring of the origin of the money deposited. Already, there are ongoing negotiations with Switzerland for Greece to receive a list of major deposits by Greeks in Swiss banks.

The plan further dictates the new role of the financial police, who will conduct more targeted checks and refer to the Citizens’ Protection Ministry, just like the main police force. The court processing of cases will be accelerated to avoid the delays seen nowadays.

Many tax offices will be merged, which the government thinks will make the mechanism more flexible, although this may well mean even longer queues for taxpayers.

The government is hoping to reap 4 billion euros by 2013 from the upgrading of monitoring mechanisms such as the financial police, and 5.2 billion euros from the improvement of debt collection mechanisms, such as abolishing all tax exemptions for tax dodgers. They will also be unable to benefit from measures such as the recent tax amnesty for the self-employed.

Papaconstantinou also warned that his ministry will publish lists of taxpayers with significant arrears to the tax authorities. ”The Finance Ministry will publish the names of those who have tax debts before the three-month deadline provided by the law,” the minister stated.

The measure concerns debts in excess of 150,000 euros which have been overdue for more than one year.

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