Greece Cross-checking Bank Deposits Against Tax Records

A branch of the National Bank of Greece, Athens, Greece. (Photo: Eurokinissi/Giannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – Stepping up the hunt for legions of tax cheats, Greece is employing a new online system for cross-checking deposits against income declarations.

The system began March 30 as the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition is searching for every euro it can find to help offset a crushing economic and austerity crisis.

The scheme was set to immediately identify discrepancies in 1.2 million tax registrations that are on CD’s in the Finance Ministry and as other ideas to stop tax evasion have done little to stop it, including mandatory receipts, a regulation that is much flaunted by professionals and others who ask for cash so they can hide their income.

Government plans to also push people to use credit and debit cards more has shown growing acceptance but there are still loopholes and wealthy Greeks especially hide their money in secret foreign accounts.

The system separates primary deposits from redeposited money and renewed financial products. Money is flowing out of banks because of political uncertainty around a long-delayed negotiation with international creditors over terms of a third bailout, this one for 86 billion euros ($91.94 billion) despite guarantees newly-deposited money would be exempt from capital controls.

The primary deposits will then be compared with income tax declarations to establish whether there are any large discrepancies that would point to hidden incomes.

Trials conducted on the monitoring system have been successful, the newspaper Kathimerini said, but some inspectors have expressed reservations about its efficiency, arguing it would be better to introduce it alongside the various parallel applications of the ministry’s online Taxisnet system.

But the new system won’t be able to cross-check cases that the financial police have probed under a prosecutor’s order because they aren’t compatible.