Tax evasion crackdown heats up

The government seems determined to combat extensive tax evasion and corruption, revealed last week to be above 7 billion euros. The target set for the next two years is to cash in 5 billion euros from tax evaders. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, who chaired a meeting on the issue yesterday, has drawn up a list of about 1,000 companies suspected of using forged and bogus invoices and declaring incorrect data to the tax authorities in their lists of clients and suppliers whose invoices exceeded 300 euros. Alogoskoufis is instructing the appropriate department to carry out thorough audits in order to establish, through cross-checking of the invoices, which enterprises evaded tax, so that penalties are then imposed according to law. The «black list» includes companies floated in the stock market, as well as firms with a turnover above 10 million euros in various sectors of the economy. Authorities are ordered to act in a rapid and systematic way for tax evasion to be effectively tackled. In this context, Alogoskoufis will invite the ministry’s competent officials on a weekly basis to update him on the checks’ progress. Priority will be given to checks on invoices where the greatest discrepancies were noted. As the minister announced last week, by cross-checking invoice data from 471,299 firms it emerged that the total amount of discrepancies had reached 7 billion euros, most of which (5.3 billion) came from 4,145 pairs of invoices of clients-suppliers with discrepancies in excess of 100,000 euros and refer to about 1,000 companies. Another 274,992 tax statements contained discrepancies, while about 12,000 statements were found with 15,635 fake Tax Registration Numbers (AFM). The government has relied on combating tax evasion in drawing up its economic policy. In the first fortnight of his tenure in the ministry, on March 22, 2004, Alogoskoufis said in Parliament that «with the resources from faster economic growth and the restriction of the evasion of taxes and social insurance contributions, we will save an amount equal to 1.3 to 1.5 percent of the gross domestic product every year. At the end of our four-year term this will reach 4 to 4.5 percent of GDP. This means 6.5 to 7.5 billion euros. With these resources we will fund our new policies.»

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