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Beating Tax Cheats Key To Italy's Recovery Plan

It's apparently dawning on Italians that shirking taxes in the end only costs them, in terms of ever-higher levies and cutbacks in public services.

Citizens now increasingly understand that "the lack of revenue over time caused by tax evaders forced the government to stiffen the tax burden on categories where you can't evade taxes," Campana said, referring to workers whose taxes are deducted from paychecks. Another area where evasion is close to impossible is real estate ownership.

Odorisio noted the crackdown included extending the statute of limitations on tax evasion from six to eight years and establishing prison as a penalty for big-time evasion.

Other weapons include a measure promoted by the Monti government that limits cash payments to no more than ⿬1,000. Paying by credit card or personal check is a relatively new habit for Italians, who are used to carrying wads of cash in their pockets, even for big-ticket items like home renovations or vacations.

Past governments in Italy sometimes resorted to tax amnesties to try to boost revenues. But critics, contending some Italians counted on such a possibility, described that strategy as only perpetuating the tax cheat culture.

Spain hasn't had much success with its own tax amnesty introduced by the conservative government in March. That measure, expiring soon, allows undeclared assets or those hidden in tax havens to be repatriated by paying a 10 percent tax without criminal penalty. The amnesty is estimated to recuperate far less than the expected ⿬2.5 billion ($3.25 billion).

Greece saw demands for tax system reform from international rescue creditors added on to conditions for future rescue loan payments, as Greek authorities acknowledged that a high-profile campaign to crack down on major tax cheats has produced disappointing results.

The cash-strapped government over the last 10 months recovered just ⿬19 million ($25 million) of the ⿬13 billion ($17 billion) of arrears on the list. A prominent Greek magazine publisher recently tapped anger over rich tax evaders by publishing a list of people allegedly holding Swiss bank accounts. He was acquitted this month of breaching privacy laws.

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