ECONOMY

Gov’t targets tax evaders

The Finance Ministry has created new electronic programs for cross-checking data submitted by firms and the self-employed in order to identify tax evaders. At an initial phase, the new programs will process data in the annual clients’ and suppliers’ statements, submitted by businesses, and the annual value-added tax (VAT) statements. Finance Ministry officials take the view that the new cross-checking methods will yield important results, possibly thousands of cases where VAT is not paid to the state or bogus expenses are deducted. They further argue that from now on it will not be necessary to conduct the largely fruitless random checks, as the new mechanism will use «ready material» which is already in the ministry’s upgraded information systems, which now also have a much greater capacity. Improved cross-checking of data on clients’ and suppliers’ statements last year identified tax evasion totaling about 7 billion euros. The results of this year’s cross-checks will be available soon. Taxpayers found not to have submitted clients’ and suppliers’ statements will be liable to fines of between 290 and 880 euros for gross revenues of up to 14,670 euros. For higher revenues the fines will be tripled. The improved scrutiny will also target cases of bogus transactions or businesspeople who conceal revenues or inflate expenses, beginning with those concerning large sums. Checks of income tax statements will follow. World Bank study Separately, the World Bank said in a study on Greece that about one in every nine euros of company revenues is not recorded and therefore not taxed. This took the total amount of tax evasion from companies to an estimated 17 billion euros in 2005. That 11 percent level of tax evasion in Greece is considerably higher than in other country/member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), whose average stands at just 6.4 percent. Greece trails rival EU members, such as Ireland, Spain and Portugal, where tax evasion ranges between 3 and 7 percent. The World Bank further estimates that the underground economy in Greece amounts to 28.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), or 52 billion euros. Greek Finance Ministry data also showed that one in every two companies evades taxation. Of the 28,061 checks carried out in the year’s first half, there were violations in 12,258 instances, according to the ministry’s Special Inspection Service (SIS).