Minister wants police force for tax crackdown

Finance Minister.Giorgos Papaconstantinou on Thursday mooted the creation of a special police force to help crack down on widespread tax evasion during the discussion of a new raft of draft tax reforms at a cabinet meeting attended by Prime Minister George Papandreou.

According to sources, Papaconstantinou told cabinet members that he needs «a tool to help me do my job.»

It remained unclear on Thursday how the operation of this special police force would be differentiated from the role of the ministry’s financial crimes unit (SDOE) which has been spearheading efforts to curb tax evasion but has had more luck in issuing fines than collecting them.

There was reportedly some tense discussion during the cabinet meeting about which ministry the economic police force, if created, would answer to. It was decided that the force would be answerable to the Citizens’ Protection Ministry but that an economic prosecutor – a role to be assumed by an appeals court prosecutor – would continue to answer to the Justice Ministry.

Serious tax offenders will find it hard to slip the net as, in the case of felonies, they can be prosecuted up to five years after the misdeed was committed while for misdemeanors offenders can be prosecuted up to 20 months after the transgression.

In a decision posted online last week, it emerged that the government has decided to enlist the help of a private company to improve its tax collection efforts. There is to be a competition in April to choose the company which is to paid 2.5 million euros for the job.

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