Sunday, November 11, 2012

Greece Takes Aim at Tax Evasion Among Wealthy

New York Times
November 11, 2012

As controversy swirls around the failure of former Greek finance ministers to investigate a list of 2,000 suspected tax dodgers, the current government in Athens is taking a hard look at the foreign assets of those people and thousands of others.

In recent weeks, tax experts at Greece’s finance ministry have been scrutinizing the finances of about 15,000 Greeks to see if money they have sent abroad in the past three years — about $5 billion in all — exceeds the declared wealth on their tax returns, government officials say.

The government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is intent on cracking down on wealthy tax evaders as it tries to quell mounting public anger over a slate of austerity measures that the Greek Parliament last week passed by a thin margin. Early Monday, the government won approval for its 2013 budget, which, due in part to persistent tax evasion, must rely on a punishing mix of spending cuts and indirect tax increases to meet targets set by the country’s creditors.

The emergence of the “Lagarde list” of 2,000 individuals with overseas bank accounts — named after a list given to the Greek government in 2010 by Christine Lagarde, then the French finance minister and now the head of the International Monetary Fund — and the failure of previous governments to act on it has outraged a generation of austerity-weary Greeks. It highlights as well a longstanding societal fissure between those forced to absorb an ever-increasing tax burden and those who escape the duty by sending money overseas.


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