About half Greek firms caught cheating taxman
APATHENS--Nationwide spot checks by Greek tax inspectors have found that almost every other business is cheating the taxman in some way, as the debt-hobbled country's authorities struggle to improve revenue collection amid a crippling recession.
August 11, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Despite repeated campaigns by successive governments to clamp down on tax fraud, it remains a major problem in Greece, which for the past three years has relied on vast international rescue loans to stave off bankruptcy.
Finance Ministry data released Friday showed that 731 of 1,465 companies — mostly restaurants, bars, coffee shops and clubs — checked from July 25 to Aug. 5 had violated tax laws. The highest rate of non-compliance, some 85 percent of those checked, was on the islands of Evia and Skyros.
The top tourist destinations of Mykonos, Santorini and Crete had rates of over 56 percent of the businesses investigated.
Authorities have recently ordered 12 businesses to close for a month for outstanding tax violations or resisting inspectors, and are planning to shut down another 14 for similar reasons — including a restaurant on Crete where customers allegedly chased away a team of inspectors this week.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said the government was forced to pass special legislation to enable tax checks on weekends and during the holiday month of August.
“We are engaged in an unprecedented campaign, closing down businesses and legislating,” he said in an interview with Mega TV, a private channel. “You can't win the fight against tax evasion without carrying out checks.”
Stournaras said that, in some areas, entrepreneurs had not been issuing any receipts at all, concealing revenues and pocketing the sales tax levied on transactions.
“If this is Greek society's system of values then I am truly sorry but penalties must be imposed,” he said. “We must all demand receipts.”