Italian tax chief believes 'evasion for survival' exists
Befera says would be less cheating if Italy taxed less07 October, 14:01
The notion that some in Italy are forced to dodge taxes by their economic circumstances has been a lightning rod for controversy in the past when similar sentiments were expressed by centre-right ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.
The issue sparked furor anew when Junior Economy Minister Stefano Fassina, a member of Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), repeated the hypothesis in late July.
On Monday, when asked on Radio 24 whether evasion for economic survival exists, Revenue Agency Director Attilio Befera responded, ''I believe so, but I don't really know, not being an evader (myself)''.
''There are various kinds of evasion. We try to tackle all of them with maximum intensity. In Italy, one must pay taxes, and if it weren't for (tax-collection agency) Equitalia, no one would pay,'' Befera said. Befera also admitted that fewer taxes would lead to less evasion.
''Without a doubt. There would be less evasion (than now happens) due to lack of liquidity,'' he said.
Nevertheless, Befera said tax evaders should not be treated leniently.
''It is a fact that a tax cheat is a parasite on society,'' Befera declared.
Befera complained that, despite progress toward stamping out the problem, ''evasion is still part of the Italian culture, and it must change. Evasion is not shrewdness. We have to teach this to new generations''. On July 25, Fassina broke leftwing political taboo by speaking of ''tax evasion for survival'' at a conference by the business association Confcommercio.
Fassina was praised by the Italian right, but leftwing political voices, including powerful union leader Susanna Camusso, condemned the deputy minister for cutting slack for law-breakers.
''Without wishing to wink at anyone...While unambiguously countering tax evasion, there are deep, structural reasons that lead many to conduct they would rather avoid,'' Fassina said at the time.
This ''evasion for survival (is) not a question of primarily moral character'' but of an ''unsustainable tax burden,'' Fassina explained.
''There is a tight relationship between tax burden, spending and evasion,'' Fassina concluded.