MARCH 16 2012 19:29h

Greece exceeds goals for collecting taxes

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ATHENS, Greece, March 16 (UPI) -- Greece has exceeded goals for collecting taxes but must do more to make certain revenue reaches the country's economy, the head of a task force said Thursday.

Horst Reichenbach, the head of the European Commission's task force on Greece, said at a news conference in Athens the country had collected $1.2 billion in back taxes, more than twice the target amount, but that tax evasion remains rampant, The New York Times reported.

He said there is about $10.5 billion in collectible revenue.

Reichenbach presented the task force's second quarterly report. It looks at Greece's progress implementing changes demanded by foreign creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The changes are in exchange for two installments of bailout aid -- the second, for about $171.3 billion, received approval from Greece's European partners this month in time to prevent the country from defaulting.

The IMF said about $2.2 billion would be available immediately and on Thursday approved about $36.9 billion in loans to Greece over the next four years.

In a written statement, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde praised Greece for "its tremendous efforts to implement wide-ranging painful measures over the past two years," but called for further action.

"Greece's priority is to undertake competitiveness-enhancing structural reforms," the statement said, adding that "significant further fiscal adjustment is necessary to put debt on a sustainable downward trajectory."