ECONOMY

Salary earners fudge tax returns

As the government is promising to catch wealthy doctors who have been cheating the tax office and punish landowners for failing to declare swimming pools, checks by the Finance Ministry uncovered about 178,000 cases of salary earners who have fudged their tax returns. Cross-checks made by the Finance Ministry on 2008 data found that the declarations made by the aforementioned workers did not match the information submitted by their employers. Tax authorities estimate that approximately 700 million euros in income had not been declared by salary earners, resulting in a significant loss of revenue for the state. After unveiling recent austerity measures worth some 30 billion euros that heavily target public sector workers and pensioners, the government is chasing down tax cheats in an attempt to win back public opinion. Earlier this week, the state published a list of numerous highly paid doctors located in the affluent central Athens area of Kolonaki suspected of evading contributions. The list made public by the Finance Ministry included 57 Athens-based doctors who were found to have committed a range of tax offenses, including failing to issue receipts or record patients’ visits. Authorities have asked the banks of dozens of doctors to provide details of their accounts and any money transfers they may have made to other countries. The «name and shame» tactic adopted with the doctors follows news last month that the government is using satellite pictures taken using Google Earth to spot hundreds of homeowners who have failed to declare the construction of a swimming pool on their property. Efforts to improve tax collection appear to be paying dividends. Greece’s central government deficit narrowed by 41.8 percent in the first four months of 2010, signaling that the country is on track to meet this year’s fiscal targets. The central government deficit dipped to 6.283 billion euros from 10.791 billion in the same period last year, according to preliminary figures provided by the Finance Ministry’s General Accounting Office.