ROME -- As Italian authorities launch yet another offensive against tax evasion, the latest data showing most luxury yachts and sports cars are officially owned by people living in poverty gives a measure of their task.
A study by pressure group Contribuenti.it showed 61 percent of top-of-the-range cars and boats were registered to "destitute" people declaring no annual income or old-age pensioners offering their names to rich businessmen to help them avoid taxes.
Contribuenti.it, which based its study on latest official finance ministry data, said in 2008 around half of Italians declared an income of less than 15,000 euros, while only 0.2 percent declared more than 200,000 euros.
The report was published in most Italian dailies on Friday.
Italy's finance police have this summer redoubled attempts to unearth wealthy tax evaders. They announced this week that between July 1 and Aug 15 they carried out examinations of 959 yacht owners and 13,673 drivers of luxury cars.
However such offensives, despite media fanfare, seem to make little lasting progress against tax-dodging, which has been described as an Italian national sport.
Think tank Eurispes has estimated just over one-third of Italy's 1.5 trillion euro economy is conducted in the 'black', without paying tax, while national statistics agency ISTAT pegs it closer to 16 percent.
At least 13 percent of Italian workers pay no taxes and do not officially exist, ISTAT says.
"It's time to put an end to these modest measures to fight tax evasion," said Vittorio Carlomagno, the president of Contribuenti.it.
He said the task was too much for the tax police alone and called for permanent bodies of control to be set up in all Italy's provinces composed of trade unions, citizens' associations and government officials.
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