Taking a cue from banks who are offering better terms to customer who can’t pay their loans and credit cards, Greece is planning to offer beleaguered taxpayers buried under doubled income and property taxes to pay what they prove they can afford.
The country’s new General Secretary for Revenues, Haris Theocharis, said with taxpayers owing more than 50 billion euros ($66.8 billion – including tax cheats who don’t pay – the government is hoping to collect some of that by offering restructuring and tailoring payments to the ability of individuals and businesses to pay
“The current framework for settling debts is outdated,” he told Kathimerini. “We can follow the lead of banks, which create payment plans when customers cannot pay the installments on their loans.
“We will ask taxpayers themselves to propose what they can pay. They will have to provide evidence of the financial status. Based on this information, we will judge each case individually.”
Greece’s international lenders, the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) has so far not allowed the government to write down debts other than its own, but Theocharis said he believes they will go along with the plan.
He said that the process of hiring an extra 200 tax inspectors is already under way as the government attempts to rein in tax evasion, an area that the troika has also placed great emphasis on.
“We will make greater use of technology, especially in areas such as the collection of value-added tax, which showed a big drop in January,” said Theocharis, without giving further details.
The country’s financial crimes squad (SDOE) with two former heads already accused of failing to go after tax cheats and check a list of Greeks with secret Swiss bank accounts, is reportedly in disarray and doing almost no work other than checking anonymous tips.
Theocharis said that means the government will have to step up its hunt for tax cheats. “We are putting inspectors were there are major cases, where there is evidence of tax evasion,” he said. “We have transferred inspectors to some regions that had major problems from other areas where they had more staff and fewer cases to tackle.”
He said the government is also trying to find corrupt tax inspectors who have a notorious reputation for taking bribes to look the other way and allow tax evasion to flourish.
He said that 110 staff members would be inspected by the end of the year and all employees would from now on have their source of wealth (“pothen esches”) forms checked each year. He added that 130 tax inspectors would also be checked this year. “I will not accept any excuses regarding issues of corruption,” he said.