Finance minister sees 1 bln in revenues from collecting tax fines

Under strong pressure to finalize an 11.5-billion-euro package in budget savings in 2013 and 2014, and against heavy odds, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras yesterday embarked on a battle to disprove the troika?s apparently firm belief that Greek efforts to force tax dodgers to pay have little hope of success.

?Collect the fines already imposed on enterprises,? he was reported to have told the heads of tax offices and Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) staff who participated in a broad meeting of senior officials.

According to sources, Stournaras announced a change in legislation to speed up the procedure in delivering the official fine notices to those caught tax dodging. Currently, fines of more than 10,000 euros have to be delivered by court officials.

Stournaras is targeting at least a billion euros in additional revenues from fines that are at risk of being written off, so that he won?t need to mull further salary cuts in the public sector.

The troika is reported to have projected a revenue shortfall of the same amount in this year?s budget, and rejected a Greek estimate of 1.9 billion euros in additional revenue from the fight against tax evasion.

It lowered the target for the 2013-16 period by 50 percent. Until this year, the troika had been refusing to accept such Greek optimism about tax dodging but consented to a provision of 3.8 billion up to 2016. SDOE handed out fines totaling 4.5 billion in 2009, but only 0.2 percent of this sum was collected. No more than 50-60 million euros was collected out of fines totaling 10 billion in the 2009-11 period.

According to the plan decided upon yesterday, departments will improve coordination on specific measures, which include an urgent review of pending fine cases, carrying out intensive cross-checks and new legislation for collecting the fines. Express-style tax inspections will be accompanied by incentives including as many as 36 installments for payment.