Heading to Greece this summer? You might have a secret mission to complete.
The Greek government is planning to recruit tourists to spy on tax cheats as it casts around desperately for ways to stave off bankruptcy.
The idea to employ large numbers of students, housekeepers and tourists as undercover tax inspectors is one of seven reforms the Greek government has proposed before another round of crisis talks with eurozone finance ministers later Monday.
According to a letter from Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis — published by the Financial Times — Greece would employ these amateur tax inspectors after some basic training in how to pose as customers. They would be hired for two months at most.
The Greek finance ministry declined to comment.
Wired with hidden microphones and video cameras, their main job would be to collect data that could be used as evidence against tax dodgers, for example nightclub owners or medical practitioners who avoid paying sales tax.
The Greek finance ministry suggests the plan will deter potential tax cheats. “The news that thousands of casual onlookers are everywhere … has the capacity to shift attitudes very quickly,” the letter said.
Greece has a serious problem with tax evasion. Government data suggest tax arrears totaled more than 70 billion euros at the end of 2014.
In January alone, the government’s tax revenues fell almost one billion euros below target. Many Greeks held off paying, hoping the new government would scrap many unpopular taxes and wipe out some arrears.
Other reforms proposed by Greece include establishing an independent fiscal watchdog to monitor government spending, and introducing more efficient licensing and taxation in the online gaming sector.
European leaders have agreed to extend Greece’s bailout program by four months, but need to see an acceptable list of reforms by the end of April before they’ll release any more cash. Meanwhile, Athens is running short of funds to pay its bills.