Gov?t ponders outsourcing tax collection

The Finance Ministry is considering bringing in private auditing companies and major accounting offices to aid in the tax collection process, according to sources.

Minister Evangelos Venizelos told journalists covering Parliament?s session on Tuesday that he is thinking about outsourcing the process, taking a leaf out of the book of his Portuguese counterparts.

The first stage will provide for auditing companies to take on a mediating role for the collection and payment to the state of confirmed outstanding debts.

If this proves successful, these companies will then be given a more active role in revenue collection.

A top ministry official also said that the inclusion of auditing companies and accounting offices in the tax collection mechanism will mean the Finance Ministry will not have to worry about loss of revenues during periods of industrial action.

Accounting offices have held a significant role for a few years already as their signature is required for self-employed professionals to settle their annual income tax. As a result the ministry has been able to block statements of bogus expenses by hundreds of thousands of self-employed.

Earlier this year the Financial Times had recommended enlisting the private sector in the battle against tax evasion in Greece, adding that the existing tax system would have only made sense if the state had been efficient enough.

The report, which was noted by Athens, added that were the collection of taxes to be passed on to the private sector, then the state tax collectors could be dismissed with generous severance packages if they were deemed to constitute an excessive burden on the system.

Also on Tuesday, Venizelos announced in Parliament that a committee for the reform of the tax system will be set up at the end of this week. He added that if Greece?s creditors agree to the changes to be proposed, the new system will come into force immediately.