Greek Tax Inspectors Will Raid Safe Deposit Boxes of State Debtors


A tax office in Marousi, Athens. (Photo: Eurokinissi/Stelios Misinas)

ATHENS - Nothing is safe from the tax man in Greece - unless you hide your money in secret foreign bank accounts - and now inspectors are going to open bank safe deposit boxes of state debtors and raid the contents.

Tax officials will also cross-reference transactions in debit cards and credit cards, which could provide an incentive for people to use cash - which the government didn’t want - to further hide their income.

The ruling Radical Left SYRIZA said it would end tax evasion but figures showed more people were trying avoid paying after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras imposed an avalanche of tax hikes, including on Value Added Tax (VAT) that applies even to food.

The government has also not widely enforced a requirement for the use of Point-of-Service (POS) electronic terminals so people can make payments by card, with doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals and car mechanics and others demanding cash or saying their POS machines don’t work so they can cheat on their taxes.

By the end of the first quarter of 2019 an online asset register will be in partial operation, and will include the entire set of each taxpayer’s declared or identified assets, said Kathimerini.

That means taxpayers who are concealing their incomes, real estate and various other assets of high value will be under greater pressure, as once their hidden possessions are revealed the owners will face very high fines - unless the announcement gives them time to empty their safe deposit boxes and find other ways to hide their money.

Tax officials said they want to create a huge database with all assets possessed by the country’s 8.5 million taxpayers and all enterprises and will contain details of homes, plots of land, farmland, storage rooms, vehicles, boats and aircraft, large cash amounts held in mattresses, bank deposits, gold bars, shares, bonds, treasury bills, holdings in all kinds of corporations, and mutual fund stakes, among others - unless they’re moved or hidden.

When the asset register is fully up and running and technical inspections are being carried out, the tax administration will be able to determine the real taxable income of each taxpayer based on all revenues and expenses, assets and bank deposits.

Tax officials will still need a prosecutor’s order to open safe deposit boxes and also to confiscate what’s inside if people owe money to the state. Authorities have already been seizing money from scores of thousands of bank accounts, except for people who hide their money in tax havens like Switzerland, Australia, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg.

According to a recent law amendment, the monitoring mechanism also has the right to order credit institutions to provide evidence of all banking moves by their clients for the period from 2015 to 2018.