Protest sees PM with “thousands” of invoices under his name

news: Protest sees PM with “thousands” of invoices under his name

By ANA TAVARES [email protected]

Thousands of Portuguese consumersused creativity last week to protest against a new anti-tax evasion law – in a bid to give the Prime Minister “a taste of his own medicine”, consumers provided Pedro Passos Coelho’s personal fiscal number when requesting an invoice for purchases they made.

Spanish newspaper El País called the initiative a “new way of protesting” whilst business publication Financial Times wrote that the anti-austerity groups were getting “creative”.

Triggered by the ‘Revolução Branca’ civil movement, the action aimed to protest against the new anti-tax evasion law, which sees consumers incurring fines of up to €2,000 if they don’t request an invoice when making a purchase.

With the civil movement urging the population to practice “civil disobedience” against the new legislation, the protest went viral on the social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, with several people sharing the fiscal details of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance Vítor Gaspar, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Miguel Relvas and even of President Cavaco Silva, among others.

According to Correio da Manhã newspaper, “thousands of invoices” were registered in the online ‘e-factura’ system (where citizens can register their invoices in order to get tax benefits) with Passos Coelho’s fiscal number, totalling millions of euros in purchases under his name.

A Facebook group, entitled “I have asked for an invoice under the Ministers’ names”, was also created and comprised around 2,500 friends at the time of going to print.

The protest may even raise issues for the government executives as, in theory, they could be investigated by the tax authorities for spending larger sums than their actual income. In fact, Correio da Manhã reported that several tax services admitted the possibility of the Prime Minister being targeted by the Finanças, as there are “automatic monitoring mechanisms that set off when a taxpayer asks for invoices totalling more than what they declare as their income”.

However, protesters requesting invoices under the ministers’ names are also incurring criminal liability, as fiscal law expert Tiago Caiado Guerreiro told Portuguese weekly newspaper Sol: “The act of requesting an invoice under someone else’s name is a crime of false statement”. As an alternative protest action, the fiscal law specialist suggested that consumers could choose an easier option, such as not requesting an invoice altogether.

Also speaking to Sol, the leader of the Tax Workers Union, Amândio Alves, explained that the new law could also increase the risk of tax fraud, as is the case with this particular protest. “The trader inserts the fiscal number given by the final consumer and is not capable of checking if the number in fact belongs to that person,” he said.

According to the law, traders are obliged to issue the invoice with the details supplied by the customer.

The new anti-tax evasion measures came into force in January, with fines ranging between €75 and €2,000 for those who do not request an invoice for their purchases in restaurants, car repair shops, hotels and hairdressers.

However, despite the controversy caused by this law, weekly newspaper Expresso reported last week that clients can only be fined by tax authorities when caught in the act during an inspection.

||Other creative protests against the government

Protests against the Portuguese government and its austerity measures are becoming increasingly more creative.

Government members speaking at public events are now being repeatedly interrupted by protest groups in the audience who begin singing popular Revolution song Grândola, Vila Morena by the late Zeca Afonso.

Members of the anti-austerity group ‘Que Se Lixe a Troika’ (Screw the Troika) are said to be behind the singing protest at official events. Grândola, Vila Morena is a traditional song that is intimately linked to the Carnation Revolution of 1974.

After a speech by Miguel Relvas, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, was interrupted in Porto last week, protesters repeated the action at a conference sponsored by television channel TVI, where Relvas was due to speak. He left the event early. Health Minister Paulo Macedo, Justice Minister Paula Teixeira da Cruz and Economy Minister Álvaro Santos Pereira have also been subject to similar protests at different venues.

The ‘Que Se Lixe a Troika’ group is planning a massive nationwide protest tomorrow (March 2).