Thursday, November 01, 2012

Greece's tax evasion list: a forgotten detail

We're pleased to note that a Greek journalist, who was put on trial for exposing a list of over 2,000 Greeks with assets in Swiss bank accounts, has been acquitted. There is much to say about this, but we have a detail that we haven't seen out there, amid the general clamour. Let's start with a CNN story that says:
it is not illegal to hold a Swiss bank account, and there is no evidence that anyone broke the law
That is a standard journalistic 'balancing' statement intended, among other things, to appease libel lawyers. But in fact, we can demontrate that this is untrue. There is clear evidence that most of the people on this list (we have no reason to think it isn't authentic) broke the law.

How do we know this? Well, let's turn to official Swiss data for 2009 the year that the list in question refers to. It tells you exactly how many Greek taxpayers with assets in Swiss banks opted to declare that income under the European Savings Tax Directive, a (very leaky) transparency arrangement that effectively covers 42 European and other jurisdictions, including Switzerland.

So how many Greeks declared that income?

The grand total of 70.

So if there are over 2,000 on that list, then the very large majority of them didn't declare that income.
 (And it is very hard to imagine anyone that would have opted under this scheme not to declare their income, then spontaneously and independently have declared their Swiss-sourced income at home.)

Just saying.


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