Tax officials in the gov’t firing line

The Finance Ministry intends to replace the managers of tens of tax offices and investigate accusations of corruption made against revenue collection employees in a move to boost transparency and make the department more efficient. The ministry will replace the heads of 20 tax offices throughout Greece after they failed to meet their targets in the first few months of the year as the government scrambles to collect the revenues needed to save the country from possible bankruptcy. Fifty official investigations will also be launched to check claims of corruption and negligence against employees mostly working at tax offices and customs points. The allegations were made on the four-digit 1517 phone hotline where taxpayers can report employees who ask for money in return for lightening their tax burden. «Restoring transparency to tax collection services and protecting the work and reputation of employees… are the vital factors needed to secure a sustainable boost to state revenues,» the ministry said in a statement. The move comes after recent news that only three out of 67 revenue collection offices had met their goals for the first three months of the year. At the same time, some 23 of them had not bothered to submit data to the ministry on income collected in the first quarter of the year. Other changes announced yesterday include transferring 70 revenue collection officers to new positions and calling on 234 Finance Ministry employees to explain why they haven’t filed a tax return for the 2007-08 period. Some sources said that almost all of the 20 officials being demoted were employees appointed under the previous ruling conservative government while others said that the ministry is preparing the groundwork to replace employees with auditors from private companies. In an article published in Kathimerini today, Panagiotis Grivas, the president of the Hellenic Federation of Tax Employees, welcomed the ministry’s efforts, saying that they are a step toward boosting efficiency. Grivas also called on the ministry to launch talks with the tax employees’ union on all relevant topics in order to help them implement the government budget.

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