Financial crimes squad snares island tax dodgers

A new tactic by the financial crimes squad (SDOE), which saw officers from Attica dispatched to tourist resorts to check if hoteliers and restaurateurs are evading taxes, appears to have paid off as between 46 and 100 percent of the businesses they inspected on various islands were found to be guilty of offenses.

The most persistent offenders were on Rhodes, where 11 out of 11 businesses checked were found to be breaking tax laws. Sources said that there is a SDOE team based on the island but they were not informed of the inspections, which were carried out by officers from Athens.

The most checks were carried out on Santorini, where 115 of 149 businesses, or 77 percent, were deemed to be evading taxes. Similarly, on Myconos 103 of 140 entrepreneurs, or 73 percent, were caught offending. On Paros, 116 businesses were checked, 75 (65 percent) were in contravention of tax legislation. On Aegina, the rate of offending businesses dropped to 46 percent.

The most flagrant offenders were on Myconos and Paros, where businessmen broke a range of laws by not issuing receipts, issuing fake receipts, not keeping proper accounting records and by not passing on value-added tax revenues to the state. On Myconos, the 103 businesses caught breaking the law committed a combined total of 7,330 offenses. On Paros, 75 businesses committed 5,119 offenses.

An SDOE official who spoke to Kathimerini on condition of anonymity said that many of the businesses that were nabbed by the inspectors were repeat offenders and had been fined in the past.

The SDOE team conducted checks at more than 700 businesses between April 30 and August 8. It appears that the decision to send officials from Athens rather than to rely on local personnel helped increase the effectiveness of the checks.

The Finance Ministry has to raise 5.4 billion euros each month until the end of the year in order to reach its budget targets. Clamping down on tax evaders is seen as one of the best ways to increase its revenues.

The government has enlisted the help of the private sector in the form of lawyers, accountants and inspectors to pursue tax dodgers and those who owe money to the state. The Finance Ministry said recently that 14,700 individuals, companies or organizations owe 37 billion euros.