ECONOMY

Inspectors to check taxpayers’ bank accounts

After representatives of the country’s creditors published a report blasting the inefficiency of Greece’s tax collection and monitoring mechanisms, the Finance Ministry announced on Thursday additional measures to combat tax evasion, including accessing the bank accounts of depositors suspected of tax evasion, corruption and money laundering, among other crimes.

Within the year, the ministry hopes to be able to have direct access to bank account information without having to go through the banks themselves, reducing delays to a minimum in the processing of demands by the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) and other monitoring mechanisms, and allowing authorities to open the accounts of those suspected of tax evasion.

The legal clause will be submitted in Parliament in the coming months so that the Central Bank Registry can start operating, forcing lenders to respond immediately to inspectors’ demands for the opening and monitoring of the banking transactions of those under investigation.

SDOE has already requested access to some 4,000 bank accounts, but lenders have only agreed to half of the demands. A ministry official says that at a later stage the interconnection of SDOE with the banks will be in real time, with transactions monitored as they take place.

Two more ministerial decisions will be signed in the next few days. One concerns the criteria according to which the tax cases of enterprises and taxpayers will be chosen for monitoring. The other foresees the activation of a legal clause that will allow for the incomes of taxpayers and enterprises monitored by the authorities to also be determined in other ways, such as through information on bank balances, their cash flow, the value of properties owned, their living expenditure and other annual spending.

The ministry responded to criticism from the country’s international creditors through a statement issued on Thursday that gave a full account of its actions against tax evasion. It cited the thousands of checks on taxpayers and enterprises that have taken place and others that will begin within March. Regarding the infamous Lagarde list of Greeks with deposits in a Swiss branch of HSBC, the ministry stated that SDOE had already started examining the data of 1,721 names out of the 2,062 listed.