ATHENS – Stepping up their raids, apart from many of Greece’s wealthy who hide their money in secret foreign accounts, tax authorities have set a goal to seize salaries, pensions, bank accounts and property assets from a million people in 2018.
That was shown in the business plan of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue, which was published on Feb. 22 and said inspectors would open and empty safe deposit boxes in Greek banks, providing an incentive for people not to keep money there.
Some 200,000 inspections are planned this year, with major enterprises, wealthy taxpayers, bars and restaurants, as well as home-sharing landlords set to be probed first with the aim of bringing in 3.2 billion euros ($3.94 billion) in revenues although expectations from the seizures have failed to bring as much as expected.
Capital controls limiting out-of-country transfers have been in place for more than 2 ½ years but tax inspectors haven’t been able to make a dent in the problem of people hiding their money in other countries to cheat on taxes.
The seizures of bank accounts, pensions and assets of more than 180,000 Greek taxpayers in 2017 didn’t cut down the rising debt to the state which surpassed 100 billion euros ($118.16 billion) and is growing.
Exhausted by repeated rounds of big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings and more austerity continued by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition which promised to reverse them, Greeks have reached the limit of how much they can pay, the data from the government showed.
In the first 10 months of 2017, the state confiscated some 4 billion euros ($4.73 billion), and the plans of the Independent Authority for Public Revenue provide for forced measures to be increased in 2018.
In the month of October, authorities made almost 1,000 confiscations a day from people with debts to the state of more than 500 euros ($590.79), apart from tax cheats and many of the country’s wealthy who hide their money in secret foreign bank accounts to avoid taxes and don’t keep money in Greek banks.
Unpaid taxes from January-October reached 10.44 billion euros ($12.34 billion) with the total debt to the state now about 55 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Despite an avalanche of new taxes and hikes imposed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, breaking his word to cut taxes, expected revenues in 2017 were off some 2.5 billion euros ($2.95 billion) with more being driven by desperation or necessity to be tax cheats.