Thursday, November 1, 2012

Greek taxation: A national sport no more

November 3, 2012

Greek officials used to shrug off tax evasion as “a national sport”. The finance ministry focused on raising revenue through indirect taxes such as value-added tax. Meanwhile income from a flourishing black economy financed the building of second homes on the islands, in Greece’s Arcadian heartland or moved into bank accounts abroad.

Those days are over. As Greece struggles to put its public finances in order, property owners have been hit by a volley of new taxes and holders of Swiss bank accounts are under uncomfortable scrutiny. Hot Doc, an investigative magazine, recently published a list of 2,000 Greeks who kept accounts at a Geneva branch of HSBC.

Costas Vaxevanis, its editor, is adamant that to publish the list was in the public interest. (Many hard-up, law abiding Greeks would agree.) He argues that reforms of taxation have not gone far enough, despite recent efforts by the conservative-led coalition government of Antonis Samaras to pursue 54,000 taxpayers who sent €22 billion ($28.5 billion) abroad in 2009-11. About 15,000 people transferred funds that were not declared to the tax authorities; the government now hopes to rake in an extra €2.25 billion in taxes.


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