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Tax dodgers may be exempt from prosecution

Thu 5th Jul 2012
Tax dodgers may be exempt from prosecution

The government intends to offer Spanish tax evaders more flexibility in its amnesty program after a group of lawyers and financial consultants representing the nation's wealthy families complained that the original terms were not sufficiently generous, according to a document prepared by the Treasury.

Earlier this year, the government of Mariano Rajoy approved a decree that allowed Spaniards who have cash stashed away in offshore accounts and havens to get their tax affairs straightened out if they paid the authorities a 10% back-tax on any money they declare.

The government said that it hoped to collect some €2.5 billion from the €25 billion it believes Spaniards have in deposits abroad.

But some lawyers and financial advisors believe there are not sufficient legal guarantees to protect their clients, and argue there are better and cheaper ways for tax dodgers to repatriate their money.

And the government's offer appears to have so far fallen on deaf years. Since the program went into effect in June, not one of the wealthiest families has come forward to accept the amnesty's benefits. But the government now plans to encourage them further.

On Monday, Spain's tax office released a document explaining that the government is willing to offer evaders to pay less than the 10%, while giving them guarantees that it won't file charges against them if they agree to the terms of the amnesty.

In fact, the Treasury has come up with a formula to allow tax evaders to accredit all the money they had on hand before the last 5-year period - the timeframe before the statute of limitations ran out - with the money they intend to declare for the periods still under judicial authority and only pay a minimum penalty.

"If a taxpayer deposits €500,000 in non-declared income from a period when the statute of limitations has run out, and deposits €300,000 in unpaid taxes from a period still covered by the law, they will only be responsible for the part of money in which the statute of limitations hasn't run out. In this case, the €300,000" reads the document.

The Treasury adds that the amnesty will be "complementary" with other procedures on the books, including declaring properties valuables and other personal goods.