Listing boosts tax compliance

While most of Greece’s listed companies, including many state corporations, were caught at tax evasion at some point in the 1990s, the majority paid their arrears as the time for their entry to the Athens Stock Exchange approached, according to research by a state-affiliated think-tank. A survey by the Center for Planning and Economic Research (KEPE) of 151 listed companies’ tax affairs during a three or four-year period in the 1990s found that 20.6 percent had been caught at tax evasion. However, 70.4 percent paid up – which rises to a total 87 percent if fines and surcharges from taxes that had not been paid before the companies’ affairs were scrutinized by the tax authorities are discounted. Out of all 151 firms, only nine were found not to have evaded paying income tax during any financial year. Companies were more law-abiding as far as Value Added Tax is concerned, with 134 transgressions. The KEPE survey also found that state companies tended to be more reluctant to settle their tax debts than private firms. The average tax imposed on state firms following scrutiny of their affairs was 643.7 million drachmas (1.89 million euros), while the corresponding average for private companies was 44 million drachmas (129,000 euros). KEPE found that firms radically improved their tax behavior as the time approached for their listing. The companies that presented the highest rate of compliance were vehicle rental, retail and computer companies, while ferry shipping firms and state companies were the most reluctant. Research by Greek and international think-tanks has repeatedly found that the local tax system encourages tax evasion.

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