Faced with a yawning budget deficit, Spain is stepping up a more-direct approach to combat tax cheats: face to face.
Spanish tax authorities long relied on computing power to detect errors and fraud in filings, but lately they also have increased surprise visits to restaurants, beach-side parking lots and other businesses to ferret out tax evaders and delinquents. The in-person visits include actions from simply requesting sales receipts to sometimes controversial confiscation of cash and property.
The increased vigilance comes as part of efforts by the Spanish government to curb endemic tax evasion as it tries to close a budget deficit that was about 9% of gross domestic product in 2011. Last year, the government limited cash transactions to no more than €2,500 and gave tax incentives to people who declared previously undeclared assets. One controversial new move involves showing up at businesses in debt to the tax agency and, with judicial permission, confiscating money from their cash registers during business hours.
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