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Greece faces new debt threat of unpaid taxes

Greece has finally made progress on balancing its spending, but data released on Tuesday shows it is facing a new debt threat: unpaid taxes have soared over 66 billion euros.

ATHENS: Greece has finally made progress on balancing its spending, but data released on Tuesday shows it is facing a new debt threat: unpaid taxes have soared over 66 billion euros (US$90 billion).

According to finance ministry figures, over 3.3 million Greeks - a third of the population - have trouble keeping up with tax payments.

"The number of non-payers has rapidly increased since the beginning of the year. We are looking for solutions," a finance ministry official told AFP.

The sum is now worth nearly a third of annual output.

The level of tax arrears has steadily climbed since 2010, when Greece nearly went bankrupt and had to appeal for an EU-IMF bailout, in return for which severe state cutbacks and tax hikes were imposed.

The huge level of tax arrears is forcing the government to consider ways to facilitate repayment, a ministry official told AFP.

One possible option is to extend the duration of repayment - currently set into 12 monthly instalments - and lessen the burden on households.

The coalition government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is hoping that the country will limp into economic growth this year, after six gruelling years of austerity.

This, it is hoped, will enable the state to give some tax relief without endangering the nation's tight budgetary constraints.

Last year the government balanced its budget save for debt financing costs.

The government is eager to win back popular support, after a defeat in last weekend's European elections to radical leftist party Syriza.

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