The Greek government has declared war on its wealthy tax evaders, confirming Friday that it will chase taxpayers who own swimming pools, yachts and island homes.
The government is battling a significant deficit and has been threatening for some months to claw back lost revenue.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said Friday that reducing tax evasion is a necessary step toward cutting into the country's budget deficit.
"We are in the midst of a very big action plan in Greece. We are cross-checking revenue...on doctors, lawyers. We are looking at proof of wealth, such as swimming pools, yachts, island houses. We're impounding yachts, making people pay up. It's a slow process, but we're getting there.”
Authorities in Greece have struggled to come to terms with rampant tax evasion that costs the cash-strapped nation as much as $30 billion a year,according to some estimates.
Greek officials have proclaimed since last year that they would improve tax collection in the country. The International Monetary Fund, which along with the European Central Bank set up a massive bailout for Greece last May, allowed the country to budget an increase in projected 2010 tax revenue of only $1.6 billion, much to the consternation of government officials there.
Papaconstantinou admitted that the scale of Greece’s problems eclipse that which can be reclaimed through reducing tax evasion alone.
"The answer is very simple. We need normal growth rates that are decent, and a combination of privatization and asset management. 2010 was a very difficult year...we still have a high deficit," he said.