Greek Tax Inspectors Go Back in Time to Hunt Evaders

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, FILE)

ATHENS – There's been so many crackdowns on tax cheats in Greece you'd need a computer to keep score but now inspectors said they will check records going back five years – to 2014 – to find violators.

The audits and inspections are being conducted by the Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR) and for the first time will cross-check supplier and customer declarations with the corresponding income and value-added tax declarations from 2014 onward, said Kathimerini.

The first figures for 2014 are already being transmitted to the audit services and, according to a source from the IAPR, they are a source of “great interest,” without explaining what that meant, adding that the agency has a large data pool to work with and “it makes sense for us to exploit it.”

That doesn't include many wealthy Greeks who hide their money in secret foreign bank accounts and get away with it, as the IAPR concentrates on people who put their money in Greek banks, even confiscating salaries and parts of pensions and planning to raid bank security boxes.

Early in June, Greece abandoned the effort to find evaders using secret bank accounts in Switzerland and Germany courts said even those found to be tax cheats can’t be prosecuted because the statute of limitations for chasing them expired.

The so-called Lagarde List at HSBC in Geneva, named for then-French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, who gave a copy of the stolen information to Greek authorities in 2010, revealed that Greeks hiding money in the bank had at least $1.5 billion in deposits and were thought to be trying to evade taxes.

“It is no longer possible to utilize the Lagarde list,” then-Secretary for Public Revenue Giorgos Pitsilis told lawmakers a year before that, adding that tax authorities can only audit those cases in the list where bank deposits change significantly from one year to another, said Kathimerini.

Pitsilis said the revenue authority has found just 75 such cases in the list, of which 71 have been settled and the other four will be completed soon. The ruling affects other probes that would also have to cease allowing Greeks who hid money abroad to get away scot-free.

A supplemental ruling by the Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, has rejected a request by prosecutors and tax auditors to have another five years to pore over the Lagarde List, the business newspaper Naftemporiki said.

While some depositors on the list settled accounts with the Greek state by voluntarily paying taxes on deposits, the notion of “billions of euros from tax evasion proceeds exported abroad” fizzled out, the paper added.

Also not being pursued anymore are those on the so-called Borjans List, named for Finance Minister of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia, which gave Greek authorities the names of those hiding their money there too.