LISBON (Reuters) - The Portuguese government issued a decree on Thursday giving tax authorities automatic access to bank account balances in excess of 50,000 euros (44,113 pounds) as part of a drive against tax evasion and money laundering.
The decree was first approved by the cabinet in 2016, but vetoed by President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza at the time. On Wednesday, the president said his only concern then was about a difficult situation in the banking sector, which such a measure could have exacerbated.
Portuguese banks have since improved their solvency and most returned to profits.
“The conditions are in place from the financial and legal point of view to make this step... crucial to combat tax fraud and evasion as well as money laundering,” Finance Minister Mario Centeno told a news briefing.
Until now, Portuguese tax authorities needed a judge’s permission to receive information about bank account balances of Portuguese citizens. Such data about accounts held by foreigners is already shared with fiscal authorities in their respective countries under various international treaties.
Since the start of its economic and debt crisis in 2010, Portugal has taken various measures to combat tax evasion and the shadow economy, the latter estimated to have accounted for about one-fifth of the gross domestic product.
The Accounts Tribunal estimates that such measures brought in around 500 million euros to state coffers in 2016.
Reporting By Sergio Goncalves and Andrei Khalip