Greece is making «massive progress» in improving tax compliance, collecting revenue and modernizing the administration, Pascal Saint-Amans, the Director of the Center for Tax Policy and Administration at the OECD, told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Friday.
Saint-Amans, who was in Greece to meet with Secretary General for Public Revenue Giorgos Pitsilis, said the government now has the tools to tackle tax evasion and locate money stashed in tax havens abroad.
ANA: What was today’s meeting about?
«The meeting today was about exchanging views and practices between the OECD and the independent revenue authority here. There is massive progress being made in Greece in terms of improving compliance, in terms of collecting revenue, in terms of modernizing the administration, interacting with the rest of the world which is key to modernize the country. This is what we’ve discussed and I wanted to bring my support to the great progress made by Georgios (Pitsilis).»
ANA: What else should be made in terms of tax evasion in Greece?
«Greece is known for an issue of compliance even if the things are changing, but this is a structural reform. The OECD works on international aspects putting an end to bank secrecy so that people can no longer hide in Austria, in Switzerland or in other tax heavens. Now there are tools and the tax administration in Greece will know who is hiding where so that we stop these practices, but that’s also true for multinational companies which have legally avoided paying that taxes. Through different projects at the OECD, a project called BEPS (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting), we’ve provided instruments to tax administrations for them to stop this bleeding, it is happening and the Greek tax administration is now very present at the OECD to draw the best practices and to be able to implement these practices so that people can understand they have to pay more taxes but that the big fish, the big guys, the multinational companies or the high-net worth individuals don’t get a free pass and will also pay their fair share of tax.»
ANA: On a global level, the EU recently removed eight countries for the tax heaven list. Some think of it as a hit to the campaign against tax evasion. What do you think?
«Listing is difficult exercise, at the OECD we did a list in 2009 with Switzerland and other OECD counties on. What matters today is that countries are really making progress, all countries in the world and we are fighting tax heavens, you can list them but more importantly you can push them to change by monitoring and reviewing what they do, this is the case today. Panama which was the last man standing on the way has decided to change, there is no longer bank secrecy in Switzerland and we are on the back of these countries to make sure they would change and Greece is supporting this effort to make sure that we stop the tax heaven issue. It’s hard work but it is happening, so that people have to keep in mind and have to realize that this is happening. There is a lot of skepticism but I can tell you that multinational companies are now paying the taxes where they are activities and bank secrecy is over, so if there are some people are listening and think they can keep their offshore accounts in Switzerland, or elsewhere this is over, they will be found by the tax administration here in Greece and everywhere else in the world.»
On his side, Pitsilis said the two officials had the opportunity to discuss the new tools developed through the OECD to fight international tax evasion -the BEPS – to exchange information and ways to use and improve all the methods to tackle tax evasion.
«This cooperation is necessary for us. We have been investing steadily in this, the past two years our presence is regular and has increased in all individual OECD work,» he said.