ECONOMY

Tax offices dragging their feet

The performance of tax offices is becoming another major problem for the country?s finances, as Finance Ministry data made public on Wednesday showed that tax inspectors are doing a particularly poor job of checking for tax evasion.

Official figures for June, the month when new tax measures were decided, revealed that out of the country?s 34 major tax offices, 12 had not performed a single audit on taxpayers, while 31 clocked an average of less than one check per employee.

At the same time, from the start of the year until yesterday the country?s 288 tax offices had only inspected 152,822 cases, with another 358,503 cases still pending. This means that the authorities have only checked three out of every 10 cases in their hands.

The issue of tax evasion and the poor performance of the tax collection and monitoring mechanism was the focus of a meeting on Wednesday between Prime Minister George Papandreou, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou, the Finance Ministry?s general secretary for tax and customs affairs, Ioannis Kapeleris, and the head of the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE), Ioannis Diotis.

Sources said that Papandreou called for better coordination among the competent authorities to clamp down on tax evasion so as to send a message to those dodging payment, and particularly the big fish in the tax evasion sea, that the government will not tolerate their behavior any longer.

Greece?s creditors have long asked for cases of major tax evasion to be monitored and punished, while placing particular emphasis on the issue of rapid justice for tax dodgers.

The Finance Ministry data also showed that there are several tax offices with over 10 percent of registered taxpayers not paying their dues, most of them major companies. The processing of old debt collections and confiscations is lagging, too, as 33 out of the 34 main tax offices have conducted less than 1 percent of the work required to that end.