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Beating Tax Cheats Key To Italy's Recovery Plan

"We are going after the big cases (of evasion) in order to rake in more money," Campana said.

The Ferrari-driving plumber hid some ⿬2 million ($2.6 million) of his income over several years by giving his customers invoices -- for jobs ranging from fixing leaks to installing new bathrooms -- for the actual cost of his work, but kept a second, false registry of much lower figures for tax purposes, said Pescara tax police Col. Mauro Odorisio.

Armed with a 2008 law, authorities confiscated assets belonging to the plumber equivalent to the approximately ⿬1 million ($1.3 million) they contend he owed in taxes, Odorisio said.

With Ferraris in red or yellow, and snazzy Porsches parked inside, Guardia di Finanza garages practically resemble luxury car dealerships.

The cars get sold to help recoup unpaid taxes and interest.

Overall, tax revenues in Italy were up by 4.1 percent, says the Economy Ministry, when comparing figures from the first eight months of 2012 with the same period in 2011, but much of that was due to new taxes, and not necessarily a revolution in citizens' consciences about tax obligations.

Monti's recipe relies heavily on taxes that are nearly impossible to avoid, such as sales tax. He also revived a property tax that his populist predecessor, Premier Silvio Berlusconi, had abolished in a promise to voters.

The ministry's report last month noted that the property tax figured prominently in the "tendency toward growth" in tax revenues. But sales tax revenue dropped slightly despite higher sales tax rates, indicating that consumers were feeling the pinch of the stagnant economy.

The heavier fiscal burden seems to have driven some honest citizens to rebel against the engrained culture of tax evasion.

The number of phone calls from the public to the tax police's hotline to report stores, restaurants and other businesses that didn't give customers sales receipts has almost doubled in the first nine months of this year, compared with the same period in 2011.

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