By Poly Panteldies
INLAND Revenue officials are on a mission to get a greater number of self-employed professionals, including doctors, issue legal receipts to their customers, chief revenue officer Liana Charalambous has said.
“For a year now, we have been visiting self-employed professionals, including architects, engineers, doctors and lawyers to check if the receipts they give are in order ,” Charalambous told state broadcaster CyBC.
Charalambous has said that many have started complying, but added doctors have raised concerns to do with doctor-patient confidentiality.
Valid receipts need to be numbered, stating the service rendered, who received it and by whom, the tax registration number of the receipt’s issuer, and any payable VAT.
The medical association, which represents all doctors in Cyprus, has recently met with the personal data commissioner and inland revenue to discuss how checks on doctors can take place without impinging on people’s privacy.
Inland revenue may check receipts against income tax data and receipts, and can check discrepancies between stated income and actual revenues. For example, officials may check to see whether a professional’s stated income checks out given their bank deposits.
But doctors raised objections to handing over information containing the names of patients and the illness for which they were treated. Even naming a patient may jeopardise their privacy, said the medical association’s chairman Andreas Demetriou.
A receipt, “signed by a psychiatrist for example, is an indication this patient has a psychiatric illness,” Demetriou said. But he added that doctors agreed to name patients – but not what they were treated for – as long as inland revenue officials checking the receipts signed a statement accepting responsibility in case any personal information was leaked.
The personal data commissioner’s office is due to come back to them on all relevant matters, Demetriou said.
But he added he was “ambivalent” about Charalambous’ statements there were no issues relating to doctors and receipts. Though doctors do not want personal treatment, the profession’s distinct nature means they need to safeguard their patients’ anonymity, Demetriou said.
Asked why many doctors did not accept bank card payments – which some claim enables them to evade the taxman – Demetriou said doctors were not legally obliged to accept bank card payments.
Meanwhile, Charalambous urged taxpayers to demand a receipt.
“Up until now, taxpayers did not want a receipt thinking they would get a discount without one,” she said.