Portuguese tax office staff ‘incompetent’ says report

news: Portuguese tax office staff ‘incompetent’ says report

A RECENT study has revealed that three out of four staff in Portuguese financial and tax institutions are unable to answer basic questions from the public.

Not only that, many of them actually hand out misinformation which can lead to tax payers ending up with fines. Some staff failed to tell contributors to make necessary alterations on forms they had handed in, or to mention that they should declare certain types of unearned income. These conclusions are drawn from a study recently carried out by Deco, Portugal’s consumer protection watchdog.

In order to make tax payers’ lives easier, the association suggests that tax office staff attend training courses in order to gain appropriate skills to advise the public correctly. It also suggests that written information should be available via printed leaflets and the internet.

Other facts revealed by the study highlighted that the majority of the 126 staff analysed, didn’t know how to respond to basic questions put to them about taxes, such as those concerning properties, inheritance, and so on.

“The numbers are extremely worrying, especially given that the vast majority of tax payers rely on information from their local tax office to clear up doubts, and trust in what they are told,” wrote the magazine Dinheiro e Direitos.

In all of the offices visited in the north and south of the country, not one gave satisfactory answers to six simulated situations posed at the counter.

Other problems that drew blanks were whether or not to fill out annexes, deadlines and amounts to declare etc.

The vast majority of staff (81 per cent) failed to answer questions correctly in regards to council tax (Imposto Municipal sobre Imóveis), especially concerning the question of exemption.

At a time when the government is carrying out activities to fight fraud and tax evasion, some tax staff are advising tax payers not to declare some forms of income claims Deco.

Another issue taken up by Deco, was the fact that tax offices are open at inconvenient times for many tax payers, forcing people to take time off work and then wait for up to a day to be seen. For this reason, many people are obliged to send others in their place.