Authorities in Greece are using unmanned aerial vehicles to fly over sea-going boats in the Aegean Sea as part of a government effort to ferret out tax evaders on holiday. According to
experts, the shadow economy in the Hellenic Republic accounts for approximately 21.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the highest in the European Union. This means that about 35.09 billion euros, or $41.83 billion annually are missed by tax authorities. The study was produced by the Institute for Applied Economic Research, at the University of Tübingen, Germany, in 2017. This means that Greece is ahead of Italy, at 19.8 percent, and Spain at 17.2 as having the biggest black markets in the EU.
Unregistered transactions between people or between businesses have been targeted for years without success by a succession of governments of all stripes, which have tried to rein in professionals, service industries and businesses that do not provide receipts or that insist on cash. In 2016, Greece’s black market was estimated to have averaged at 25 percent of GDP in the last 15 years, meaning one-fourth of all revenues not being declared.
Research associate Vasilis Vlahos said that Austria and Luxembourg have black markets of less than 10 percent of GDP, with Switzerland having the lowest percentage. In Germany, the percentage is estimated at 14-15 percent, while in Spain and Portugal it is around 20 percent.
Greece depends heavily on tourism, which attracts business from around the world. Greeck tax inspectors in league with the coast guard are launching drones in the vicinity of Santorini, an island highly popular with tourists. Authorities want to know if tour operators offering short day trips were issuing legal receipts to all their passengers. Currently, tourism accounts for about one fifth of Greece’s GDP.
Authorities have been able to establish the number of passengers on board tour boats, with the help of data provided by the drones. This number is then cross-referenced with declared receipts and on-site inspections. So far, officials at the Independent Authority for Public Revenue in Greece have been satisfied with the results. Nine boats were found to have failed to issued a number of receipts, totalling about 25,000 euros ($29,460). The owners now face fines.