Greece fails to collect tax penalties

Had the government been able to collect just a third of the fines imposed for tax evasion and other tax-related offenses over the last two years, Greece would not have had to negotiate almost 3 billion euros in savings for 2012 with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund as part of its new bailout agreement.

This conclusion can be drawn from the statistics provided to Parliament on Thursday by Deputy Finance Minister Pantelis Economou but also by the data that he did not share with deputies.

Economou informed Parliament that the state had issued penalties worth 8.6 billion euros over the last two years, but what he did not share with lawmakers was the fact that a negligible amount of these fines have been collected.

Sources told Kathimerini that only 1 percent of the 8.6 billion euros has in fact been collected, meaning that less than 100 million euros has entered public coffers. These figures underline why Greece?s lenders no longer take into account in their assessment of the Greek economy any projected revenues from fines on tax evaders and other offenders.

Economou said that more than 70,000 checks were carried out last year, uncovering more than 55,000 offenders who were fined for about 4 million tax offenses. The total amount of fines imposed came to 4.4 billion euros. A year earlier, the fines amounted to 4.2 billion euros.

Economou submitted the statistics to Parliament following a question by New Democracy MP Nikos Nikolopoulos concerning efforts to clamp down on tax evasion and other related offenses. Economou added that the financial crimes squad (SDOE) had recently shifted its focus to larger businesses and that this was beginning to pay off.

The deputy minister added that authorities have been helped significantly by the ELENXIS software, which allows inspectors to cross-check tax data. This software was installed at SDOE?s Attica offices last year and will be installed in regional departments during the first half of this year, Economou said.