Tax evasion hurting IKA

As debts in the country’s pension system continue to grow, workers from Greece’s largest social security fund, IKA, said yesterday that it is missing out on 1.8 billion euros annually from businesses that dodge the contributions they are required to make. The workers’ group, POSE-IKA, said that roughly one in seven businesses this year have failed to register with IKA and that one in six workers remains uninsured. Unionists said that another 3 billion euros was owed to IKA by private businesses which had not been able to clear their outstanding debt to the fund. If these issues were tackled, then IKA’s finances would be balanced and there would be no cause for alarm, said POSE-IKA President Christos Kokkalis. Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said earlier this month that the mounting deficit in the social security system is expected to balloon to 400 billion euros by 2050, resulting in pension funds requiring a large chunk of the annual budget to remain afloat. The government has started looking at changes needed to the pension system but has stressed that nothing will be implemented until after the next national elections, which are due by March 2008. Kokkalis said that of the 13 IKA centers responsible for checking on businesses, only four operate, with low staff numbers. Personnel shortages are IKA’s biggest problem as it has 3,570 vacancies when the total payroll should include 12,448 people, the union added. Checks conducted on 6,090 business in the first four months of the year found that about one in seven employers had not registered their details with IKA. Among the 15,833 employees checked on, 2,686 of them were found to be uninsured – around one in six. The debts owed to IKA are also rising fast. In 2002, total debts owed to the fund reached 2.2 billion euros while this amount is currently estimated to have jumped to 3 billion euros.