ECONOMY

Fake declarations of children raise population to 15 million

fake-declarations-of-children-raise-population-to-15-million

The state is launching a scheme for creating an electronic identification record for every citizen in Greece with the aim of cracking down on bureaucracy, but also of weeding out taxpayers cheating the state.

State Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis signed a decision for the Interior Ministry a few days ago so that it hands over its Citizens Register to the General Secretariat for Information Systems (GSIS), paving the way for the identification process to start.

The project is fairly straightforward: All data from the tax registry (AFM numbers) will be crosschecked with the Citizens Register, which is considered the state’s most reliable database. This will allow the state to register the identity of each citizen at the online governance agencies and to locate any fake data in tax or other state records.

The latter step is crucial, as there is a significant discrepancy in the size of the population as indicated by income tax declarations, which suggest the country’s population is far greater, and data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). It is thought that this is because many taxpayers declare having more than two children as dependants so as to collect the relevant benefits – information that was not crosschecked in the past. GSIS officials say that based on tax declarations, Greece’s population could even exceed 15 million, against ELSTAT data pointing to under 11 million.

The initiative for a comprehensive registry is not new. It dates back to 2003 and a law that called for state authorities to share records and documents so as to reduce red tape. Under this law, authorities are compelled to share the specific information requested by another agency and not all the information they hold on an individual.

This clause, which defines the function of a state interoperability center and reduces the need for citizens to physical transfer documents between services, had not been activated due to the perceived political cost. The same was attempted in 2010, when the bailout mechanisms started, though the only progress made was the creation of a ministerial committee on the project.

The latest effort started in August, with GSIS becoming responsible for the electronic identification of citizens and the interoperability of the bigger state agencies.