Outrage over the government’s plan to allow tax authority access to all bank accounts holding more than €50,000 appears to have won the day.
The decreto-lei – approved by the Council of Ministers at the beginning of August – has already seen President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa say that he doubts it fits with the terms of Portugal’s Constitution.
Marcelo must now decide whether or not to send the text to the Constitutional Court for consideration. The time-limit for this decision is tomorrow (Saturday). Thus national media expects an announcement very possibly on Monday (see update below).
Says tabloid Correio da Manhã, there are two scenarios open. One is referral to the Constitutional judges – a process that can takes weeks, if not months. The other is a straightforward veto, with a detailed explanation as to why.
President Marcelo may not want to be seen to go ‘head to head’ against the government, says the paper, but in this case, it may not be seen as particularly drastic, bearing in mind the proposed diploma does not preclude anyone from holding €49,000 in one bank account, and €49,000 in another.
The ‘magic’ number of €50,000 appears to have been picked out of a hat, perhaps to satisfy the more radical left-wing parties supporting PS Socialists who consider any hoarding of income a potential sign of “illicit wealth”.
Mid-afternoon the news came through that President Marcelo has indeed vetoed the proposed diploma. Público reports that this is the first time such a veto has been issued, and it will in no way affect other measures designed to shine the light on ‘banking secrecy’.
For example, Portugal is expected to take on a European directive about the exchange of tax information which will “oblige banks to communicate” over accounts held in Portugal by non-residents, and “accounts held by residents abroad (including Portuguese citizens)”.
Another measure, says the paper, is “implementation of the FATCA agreement with the USA”, which involves communication of bank balances of accounts “held by American residents in Portugal, people resident in the USA and Portuguese citizens resident in the USA”.