Bullied, Battered Greek Tax Inspectors Want Protection

Greek policeman. Photo; Eurokinissi, File

Fed up with being beaten up – verbally and physically – Greek tax inspectors responsible for hunting down evaders running restaurants, tavernas and other businesses are due to get some protection.

The Independent Public Revenue Authority (AADE) is reviewing a plan for bigger fines, longer closures of businesses and prosecution and jail time for battery on inspectors whose assailants haven’t been arrested or taken to court after hitting them and blocking them from their duties.

A recent spate of bullying and even assaults against tax inspectors in the recent period, especially on a handful of well-known islands, appears to have set in motion a plan by the independent public revenue authority for greater fines, longer closures of violating businesses and even the possibility of jail time for convicted perpetrators.

The business newspaper Naftemporiki said AADE officials are consulting with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos about stricter fines and sentences for tax evaders and offenders, many of which were said to be on Greek islands, the tourism magnet.

Those would have to be included in a draft law, which would then be submitted to Parliament for debate and ratification.

Assaults and attempted intimidation of Greek tax inspectors hunting for revenue after an avalanche of new tax hikes were growing with a team heckled and threatened while making a check at a taverna at the Cretan port of Iraklio in August.

The inspectors reported the incident to local police who escorted them on a second visit to the premises which resulted in the imposition of a fine for failing to issue receipts, Kathimerini said, but no reported arrest over the assault despite growing incidences.

The restaurant will remain closed until the penalty is paid, the amount of which was not revealed but generally has been so low it’s more profitable for establishments to pay occasional fines and keep evading taxes, for which they are not prosecuted.

That came only a few days after the head of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR), Giorgos Pitsilis, said that a law to protect Greek tax inspectors would be tightened although there was no evidence it was.

Growing threats against inspectors included one in Volos in central Greece where the owner of a pastry shop fired a shotgun in the air to scare off three tax officials who hit the shop owner with a fine of 500 euros ($589) for not issuing receipts, a common practice in Greece to dodge paying taxes.

Earlier this summer, a business owner on the island of Patmos attacked a tax inspector, punching him in the face. There were no reports of any arrests nor prosecutions for tax evasion.

“A special framework is needed to ensure their protection,” Pitsilis told Kathimerini when asked about the recent spike in attacks on tax inspectors. “Such acts (of violence) against state officials and inspection authorities cannot be addressed in the same way as attacks on regular citizens,” he said.