Romanian tax authorities probe celebrities, moneylenders

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s tax authorities say they will investigate the country’s big earners, including celebrities, moneylenders and pop stars, to verify the sources of their incomes.

The head of Romania’s tax authority, Stefan Diaconu, said Thursday authorities were intensifying the fight against tax evasion, having identified 7,800 people to investigate, and were actively pursuing more than 300 cases.

“Whether they are public figures, turbo folk stars or moneylenders … they will also have to prove the origins of their incomes,” said Diaconu in a statement. Turbo folk is a Balkan genre of music that mixes folk, oriental and electronic influences.

The authority said the probe, coordinated from eight cities, would focus on people who had bought property or a single item worth more than 70,000 euros ($77,000) and cars more than 25,000 euros ($27,500). The statement said that 132,000 people had been identified who had discrepancies of more than 10 percent between estimated and declared income. There are 14.3 million tax payers in Romania, a country of 19 million.

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According to global management consulting company A.T. Kearney, Romania’s underground economy was worth an estimated $45 billion in 2013.

Tax authorities this year launched a series of checks on small businesses, many of which do not issue receipts. It is common not to receive the exact change when paying in cash, a preferred method of payment. Romania has few laws regulating the terms of individual loans.

Romania has stepped up its anti-corruption drive in recent months.