The government on Monday tabled in Parliament a draft bill on fighting tax evasion, which includes harsher penalties and treatment for tax offenders but also creates the post of a financial public prosecutor to investigate serious tax fraud.

When the draft bill is passed, offences such as failing to pay taxes that are due, concealing income in one's tax statements or non-payment of VAT can all lead to arrest and prosecution for a period ranging from 20 months to five years. Offences for smaller amounts are classed as misdemeanours, while for sums in excess of 150,000 euros income tax or more than 75,000 euros VAT they are classed as criminal offences.

The offences all carry possible prison sentences, ranging from periods of up to a year for sums less than 5,000 euros, while for sums higher than 150,000 euros they range from a minimum of three years to a maximum of 20 years.

For repeat offenders, the penalties can neither be suspended nor converted to fines.

Among others, the draft bill also establishes an Internal Affairs Service within the finance ministry to investigate the involvement of finance ministry employees in possible offences and to check the statements of means and assets submitted by finance ministry employees.