Sunday, June 17, 2012

The IRS in Greece.......

Tax evasion, a national pastime, has got worse, not better, since the crisis, according to one of the senior NDOE officials, Nikos Lekkas. "The job has become a lot more difficult," he says.
Of Greece's five million taxpayers, just 33 last year declared an income of more than £750,000. Fewer than 300 declared an income between £400,000 and £750,000. Higher taxes required by the crisis mean that even businesses which paid up before have started hiding money to keep going.
When Nikos Maitos, one of Lekkas's investigators, went to the hard-pressed island of Naxos to look for tax evaders, a local radio station broadcast his car registration number to warn residents. Banks have obstructed 5,000 requests for data on rich suspected avoiders, Lekkas said. "They delay sending information for 8 to 12 months," he says. "And when they do, they send huge stacks of documentation to make it confusing. By the time we can follow up, much of the money has already fled."

Even though there has been a crackdown on some high-profile evaders, with arrests and even the odd jail sentence, the results have not been everything the inspectors hoped for. One of the people Lekkas's staff arrested - Leon Levi, the owner of fitness firm BodyLine - was sentenced to three years in jail for owing about €620,000. But he was allowed to avoid prison by paying €10 a day for the duration of his sentence: a bargain-basement €11,000.

Perhaps the most telling group of all, however, are the 500 or so politicians and former politicians who Lekkas is investigating: a number, incidentally, excluding current MPs, who are immune. Prosecutors are currently trying to get the immunity of one particular MP, Dora Bakoyannis, lifted, accusing her of involvement in the illegal transfer of $1 million by her husband to a London bank account to avoid tax. (She denies the claims, saying they are "politically-motivated.")

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