Greece not doing enough against rich tax dodgers, say EU/IMF
By Harry Papachristou
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's drive to crack down on flagrant tax evaders such as doctors and lawyers is flagging and must be reinvigorated, a report by the European Union and International Monetary Fund said on Monday.
Athens has collected just half the tax debts and conducted less than half the audits it was supposed to under the targets set by its lenders, according to a survey by the country's international lenders which was compiled in November.
"The mission expresses concern that authorities are falling idle and that the drive to fight tax evasion by the very wealthy and the free professions is at risk of weakening," it said.
By the end of September authorities had conducted 440 checks on suspected wealthy tax evaders, compared with a full-year target of 1,300. About 1.1 billion euros in overdue taxes have been collected so far, less than the 2 billion euros targeted.
The lenders urged Greece to improve tax collection and focus on the cases most likely to produce results. "Doctors and lawyers are a good place to start," they said.
Tax evasion is endemic in Greece, making it more difficult for the government to shore up its finances under its 240-billion-euro international bailout.
With revenues falling short and the austerity-hit country obliged to meet its fiscal targets when its economy is shrinking for a fifth year, Athens is hiking taxes on middle-class wage earners who can't hide their income.
After a Christmas recess, parliament is expected to pass a new tax law which aims to raise about 2.5 billion euros over the next two years as part of a 13.5 billion euro austerity package. Continued...