Ministry says state coffers short of 35 billion drachmas for 2001

Declining corporate profits and flagging revenues from stock market transactions threw government finances off balance last year, resulting in a 35-billion-drachma (102.7-million-euro) shortfall, Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis said yesterday. While ordinary budget revenues in 2001 rose by 6.8 percent from the previous year, it fell short of the target of 7.1 percent growth, leading to a deficit of 35 billion drachmas, he said. The deputy minister said the shortfall came principally from lower than projected revenues from corporate taxpayers and stock market transactions. Corporate taxes were 320 billion drachmas (939 million euros) off target, while the levy on stock market transactions fell 280 billion drachmas (821.7 million euros) short. State coffers also suffered from falling interest rates as the tax on bank savings brought in 145 billion drachmas (425.5 million euros) less than expected, while declining energy prices resulted in a 75-billion-drachma (220-million-euros) shortfall in value-added taxes. Tax offices reported a 4.6-percent year-on-year rise in revenues over the 12-month period against the projected increase of 6.2 percent. Custom offices also fell short of the target of a 4-percent increase, with revenues up by only 3.2-percent. The only bright spot was dividends from state-controlled entities, which went up by 46 percent compared with a 30.1-percent goal. Determined not to see a repeat of last year’s shortfall this year, the Finance Ministry yesterday announced measures to boost the state coffers. Taxpayers submitting their tax returns via the Internet will get a 2.5-percent discount or up to 40,000 drachmas (117.4 euros) off their taxes. They will also be spared the chore of submitting supporting documents. The ministry hopes the incentive will encourage 300,000 taxpayers to file their returns via the Internet this year against 30,000 last year. The 2.5-percent discount will apply to all taxpayers this year, unlike last year when the privilege was only available to those who submitted their returns before August 1 and those who paid their taxes in one go. The ministry also said it will install devices in all games of chance, which will record their takings in a move which should help bring in revenues for the state and at the same time stamp out illegal operators. There are an estimated 150,000 such machines countrywide. The dull market conditions persist and are unlikely to change for a while.

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