ECONOMY

Tax collection hurdles criticized

Minister of State for Combating Corruption Panayiotis Nikoloudis openly criticized the country’s tax collection mechanism on Friday, arguing that while the monitoring of tax evasion has improved, the collection of taxes still leaves much to be desired.

“The challenge of [combating] tax evasion has been won, pompous as that may sound, but what has not yet been resolved is the problem in tax collection, which constitutes a public administration issue,” said Nikoloudis. He also released data on inspections conducted on 28,000 taxpayers, saying that “some of them declared annual incomes of 20,000-25,000 while having deposits of 1 million euros.”

The minister added that 5,500 cases have been identified where the declared income diverged considerably from bank balances totaling some 7 billion euros. The state could get its hands on some 2.5 billion of that, but as Nikoloudis said, the problems of the tax authorities and the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) have raised obstacles to its collection. “There are difficulties in collection, as the tax authorities say that they have not performed such inspections, while SDOE lacks the staff,” the minister stated.

Regarding the practical weaknesses of the tax inspection squads, Nikoloudis said: “I do not wish to attribute blame. Everyone has practical or other problems. I now get 600 euros less [per month] than when I was a prosecutor. But does that mean I should not do my job? The solution will come from the correct tax law.”

He went on to refer to his upcoming meeting with a senior Swiss government official at the end of April aimed at cooperating with Switzerland on the automatic exchange of information in the battle against tax evasion. He said the previous agreement with Switzerland provided for a tax on deposits that never materialized. “It concerned 1.4 billion euros, effectively a deposit on the tax the tax evaders would pay, following checks that the Swiss themselves would perform. I do not know who was responsible for the fact that the agreement did not proceed,” said Nikoloudis.