Tackling Tax Evasion: Bloomberg Follows Greece’s Fraud Squad

Greece-tax-evasion-SDOEIn a recent story, a Bloomberg correspondent followed Greece’s Financial Crime Unit (SDOE) performing random spot checks at several locations across Athens, unraveling step by step the Greek mentality of evading taxes, which “has its roots back in the Ottoman Empire“.

The story begins on a Saturday night in a club in Athens’ elite northern district. Bloomberg’s journalist accompanies the tax officials who push through the crowd demanding to see the cash register. For the next 30 minutes, the officials, with dance music blaring, retreat to a table near the toilets to study the papers before concluding there’s been no violation.

The following day, the SDOE employees perform on-the-spot audits across a crowded Athenian coffee scene, where a coffee house is found not to have issued many receipts. When the owner is fined €250, he starts complaining about the injustice taking place, showing the journalist his empty cash register.

“To be viable, you have to manipulate the numbers,” Petros, who owns a bar near downtown Athens, told the journalist, admitting that he is evading taxes to stay afloat. Petros relies on a network of local businesses that alert each other when controllers arrive in the neighborhood, which is about 10 times a year.

SDOE inspectors are the new face of Greece’s fight against an age-old problem of tax evasion, mentions the journalist in his story, revealing that around 24 percent of Greece’s output in 2012 was undeclared, 60 percent above an EU average of 15 percent.

The story also features comments by the secretary general for public revenue, Haris Theoharis, who reveals that tax revenue is already increasing in 2014 due to improvements in information technology, better training of staff and more spot-checks taking place.

“Our controllers have gotten even chairs thrown at them,” Hara Mavridou, Greece’s deputy general director of tax audits and public-revenue collection, said in a recent interview. “We want to be tough with those who break the rules and we want a light touch for those who follow the rules to encourage them.”

Greece recently announced it will raffle off luxury cars impounded by tax collectors to citizens who submit invoices and receipts as tickets for the prize draw.



  1. Lets understand this, it takes a reporter from Bloomberg to get the Taxing Authorities out of their offices to make spot checks? Suppose the next day its business as usual coffee, cigs, read the newspapers, followed by a long lunch a brief siesta then 20 minutes of looking like they are working and the balance of the day complaining before going home.

  2. This is just one more case where an outside agency, a dispassionate authority (such as Bloomberg or an EU commission), finds that “the right way, the wrong way, and the “GREEK WAY” is still alive and is not going away soon.

    How much longer will it take to sink in that Greece needs a TOTAL OVERHAUL of governance and its ENFORCEMENT of procedures (new people with new values)–particularly for tax records and collection, in order to have ANY CHANCE of survival.

    Eventually (and very soon) it will come down to the final decision–to either let another outside agency be in charge (NO WAY SAY THE MASSES!) of tax collections and enforcement of those who don’t pay, or it will be business as usual to the bloody end (sooner than later)

    The disturbing fact (which the world has only learned from the “crises”) is that the GREEK WAY is just not sustainable any more.

    A country can only bleed for so long before it completely expires, and this little nation is already on life support.

  3. Come, PC. Easy on these guys. It’s getting harder for them to call a day’s work telling the owner of a business he owes 20 000 euros for the year, but signing it off with his fragida for a “fair” 10.000. The other 10 000 buys a lot of coffee, cigs, and maybe a pretty nice marble palace at the end of a few years.


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