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The Office for Combating Economic Crimes goes unarmed against tax evasion

30 September 2012 / 14:09:40  GRReporter
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At a time when the application of the most stringent measures to combat tax evasion is required, the Office for Combating Economic Crimes (OCEC) is facing serious difficulties due to lack of staff and resources. Fuel costs are significantly cut, which is why most of the office's cars are in the garage, and thus on-site inspections in the country are limited. At the same time, because of the wave leaving the public sector, the number of experienced staff in the office has been drastically reduced. Currently, 660 employees are working in the OCEC, and according to senior executives from the Ministry of Finance, at least 1,000 are needed in order to meet the objectives set by the Memorandum. Planned tax audits are also reduced by 30%, because of lack of inspection staff. Staff trained and prepared in the latest technologies are also scarce. Such staff could come from other services, but this is not yet happening.

Another obstacle to the effective functioning of the office and the fight of tax evasion is the cooperation with banks and the lack of appropriate legislation authorizing the opening of bank accounts by express procedures. The OCEC has requested a legislative settlement of the issue, to enable the opening of bank accounts within 15 days after submitting the request. Sources from the office said that banks are reluctant and indifferent to the requests for the opening of accounts and provision of analytical data. In 323 cases alone, where bank accounts have been opened and tax control has been achieved, the difference between declared income and that found in the bank accounts reached 700 million euro.

In particular the obstacles to the office are:

1. Lack of staff. A typical example is The Operational Department for Specific Cases (ODSC) in Athens. A document sent by the OCEC to the General Secretariat in Tax Affairs on 2 May 2012 makes it clear that there are serious gaps in the office dealing with major cases of tax evasion. The positions provided are 102, the occupied ones were 67 in May, then reappointments of officers and retirements followed, and now there are only 52 employees. Of these, only 35 are inspectors. The problem lies not only in the numbers but also in qualification. The office says that they need a qualified staff of young people of up to 45 years, with excellent knowledge in information technology. They also expressed concerns about the reasons why this issue is not solved quickly and easily by reassigning staff from other departments. Last March, about 180 employees asked to be transferred to the OCEC, but so far none of them have been reassigned.

2. Lack of resources. Large cuts in spending affect the OCEC as well. In June, at the start of the summer tourist season, there was no fuel in the office to run their cars, nor money to pay the inspectors.

3. Banks. To date, the office has submitted more than 5,000 requests to the Union of Greek Banks for the opening of bank accounts suspected of tax evasion. However, according to OCEC sources, this process can take up to six months, and if banks do not submit analytical data the office's hands are tied.

Tags: tax evasion Office for Combating Economic Crimes
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