Cabinet unanimously backs tax measure with sales receipts

A cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday unanimously backed proposed measures that will require tax-payers to present sales receipts amounting to half their net annual income in order to avoid additional taxation from 2012.

At the meeting, Papandreou also stressed that the government was fully behind a policy based on the decisions of European leaders on July 21, which would be the framework for all its actions.

Reporting on the results of his visit to Berlin and that of government vice-president Evangelos Venizelos to the United States, Papandreou said that his meetings had been "productive" and had confirmed the willingness of all sides to find a solution to the Eurozone's debt crisis, which first and foremost affected Greece.

He promised that once the issue of financing the country was resolved, the current focus on Greece would quickly translate into high-quality investments, new jobs, growth and new prospects.

Among his meetings in Berlin was that with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where they decided to step up cooperation in energy, a land register, taxation, fire-fighting and local government, but also his talks with German industrialists.

The prime minister noted that these had raised questions Greece's excessive bureaucracy, which acted as an impediment to investments, as well as the lack of transparency and the persistent problems with corruption. In addition, Papandreou said, they had spoken of the patriotism that their Greek counterparts needed to show.

He stressed to his ministers that all general talk about growth was futile unless these obstacles to the country's growth were addressed, obstacles that were not caused by a lack of money but by the institutions and operation of the state itself.

Referring to the scenarios of a Greek default circulating in the media, the prime minister stressed that these often acted as an excuse for inertia or even resistance to major changes.

"In these scenarios we appear as mere spectators. This is something that we must overturn in Greek society and, clearly, on no account can we let it affect our work, the work of the government," he stressed.

Papandreou noted that the ratification of the July 21 decisions by European national Parliaments was going ahead and that this was due to the government's decisions and the determination with which it promoted the major changes. He once again underlined the importance of fully implementing the decisions of July 21 in Greece.

The prime minister also praised PASOK MPs for backing the controversial property surtax measure in Parliament, stressing that they had carried out their patriotic duty.

During a later press briefing outlining the results of the cabinet meeting, government spokesman Ilias Mossialos said the entire cabinet greeted the sales receipts measure as the first meaningful effort to tackle tax evasion.

"Anyone with income that is above board has nothing to fear," he stressed while clarifying details of the measure. He also ruled out any tax on people's savings.

Mossialos said that the government's aim was to set up an electronic data base that would include a statement of people's deposits, real estate and other assets so that everyone's total income and total wealth were known.

Sources within the government, meanwhile, have not ruled out the possibility of backdated inspections in cases where there is a large discrepancy between assets and declared income.

Mossialos said that the details of the measures would be outlined in the new national taxation plan that is due to be drawn up in the coming weeks and that they would apply from the start of 2012.

PM due in Warsaw, cabinet meeting on Sunday

The prime minister is due to depart for Warsaw later on Thursday, in order to take part in the EU Eastern Partnership Summit. He is due back in Greece before Sunday, when the government is scheduled to hold a cabinet meeting to discuss how to implement the labour reserve measure and the draft budget for 2012 that is due to be tabled in Parliament on Monday.

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