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Economy

Greece Will Now Take Electronic Crack at Slowing Tax Evasion

ATHENS – Nothing’s really worked yet, but Greece’s tax authority in 2023 will take another stab at trying to stymie tax cheats who’ve gotten around every idea put up to thwart them.

Businesses and professionals such as doctors and lawyers are supposed to accept debit and credit cards but many still insist on cash or say their Internet or Point-of-Service (POS) devices aren’t working, and don’t give receipts.

Everyone from plumbers to service providers pockets money without reporting it while the rich stash their cash in foreign bank accounts and usually get away without paying taxes.

With income taxes up to 44 percent, there’s incentives for people not to report what they are making and many take such advantage of loopholes and finding ways to evade that it’s become almost accepted.

But now the Independent Authority for Public Revenues AADE said there will be mandated links of POS terminals for nearly all classes of services and businesses, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency ANA-MPA.

The agency has issued instructions to speed up the project and taxpayers are being asked to send the tax data they generate to AADE and myDATA in virtually real time, no word how it would be monitored.

The idea is to effectively prevent any business or freelance professional from charging a client via POS unless they first issue a receipt, but it wasn’t explained how using businesses could be required to use them.

The aim is to complete the project by next spring, closing a big window for tax evasion in Greece, where the Value Added Tax (VAT) has become smaller but still high by European standards, at an estimated 3.2 billion euros ($3.42 billion,) according to European Commission figures.

Finance Minister Christos Staikouras said, “It’s is an important development, with a direct and substantial impact on state revenues, on instilling tax conscience and increasing the competitiveness of businesses, increasing tax justice and social cohesion and, chiefly, securing the conditions for an even lower overall tax burden on the citizens.”

That echoed words of former officials and governments who made the same pledges to rein in tax cheats but many debts to the state are being written off or seen as uncollectable and reports as many as 60 percent of Greeks don’t pay any income taxes and others vastly under-reporting what they make.

Based on recent decisions taken by AADE chief Giorgos Pitsilis, the technical specifications for two new types of Electronic Taxation Mechanism (electronic cash register) were outlined and the specification for linking cash registers and POS terminals were updated.

These ensure accuracy of the data transferred to AADE and improve the encryption of communication between the two devices, as well as ways of handling possible breakdowns of ETMs and device communications infrastructure, the report said.

The new system using the Electronic Funds Transfer at the Point of Sale (EFT POS) terminals will not allow transactions via the POS to be carried out autonomously or entered manually but only directly by the ETM cash register when a receipt is issued – as long as it’s in use.

The ministry has also introduced changes regarding the forwarding of transaction data by businesses to the myDATA platform, which are expected to bring improvements for 1.3 million businesses and freelance workers.

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