ECONOMY

Time is up for tax evaders

Companies failing to meet obligations of debt or fines to the government will have half their bank assets frozen, Finance Ministry sources said yesterday. Newly appointed Deputy Finance Minister Antonis Bezas has stopped signing decisions allowing waivers to such obligations of large enterprises. These obligations arise either from large fines due to the use of bogus invoices, or from failing to return collected value-added tax or tax on wages. For a long time, the majority of such companies has been able to obtain successive three- or six-month extensions to the payment of such debts until they fell under the statute of limitations and were ultimately written off. These obligations are now estimated to have grown to no less than 15 billion euros, including interest. Sources said Bezas has drawn up a long list of enterprises that owe sums of more than 150,000 euros in back taxes and another with those that have used bogus invoices worth more than 300,000 euros each. In order to counter the phenomenon, the government is said to be resolved to activate Article 27 of the latest taxation law, which provides for the suspension of the confidentiality of bank accounts in such cases. Article 27 also stipulates that 50 percent of the bank assets of such companies are frozen if they fail to pay up. Such a measure is automatically suspended if the liable firm pays more than 70 percent of dues plus interest. Public tax offices have received strict instructions not to issue any tax certificates until firms pay back all arrears. The sources said Bezas’s list includes two oil products distribution companies, one soccer club, food and beverage companies and several big business people. They will all receive urgent payment notifications.