ROME, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- Italian police on Thursday said they uncovered a major tax-evasion scam in the central town of Urbino, the latest in a series of tax fraud scandals in the recession-hit country.
The scam, allegedly worth 30 million euros (38 million U.S. dollars), involved 14 companies all working with the same accountant who filed false tax statements. Four of them were reported to have totally evaded value-added tax payments for 1.5 million euros (1.9 million U.S. dollars).
With an estimated black economy worth nearly 20 percent of national gross domestic product (GDP), Italy ranks first in tax evasion in the European Union.
Fighting tax evasion has been repeatedly defined by Prime Minister Mario Monti as a "top priority for increasing Italy's credibility in the world."
"Tax evasion is a serious problem in Italy today for its pervasiveness and size," Marco Miccinesi, a noted lawyer and taxation law professor at the Catholic University of Milan, told Xinhua.
"Despite the increasing effectiveness of controls and greater civic awareness on the importance and relevance of the obligation to pay taxes, evasion still plagues our country, impeding a more equitable distribution of tax burden," he said.
According to a study by business association Confesercenti, in 2012 the average household's tax bill will be 1,450 euros (1,867 U.S. dollars) higher than it was last year, taking the Italian overall tax burden up to 44.7 percent, 5 percent higher than the European average.
The government campaign against rampant tax evasion over the past months has featured a number of headline-grabbing operations among tourists in famous resorts, shoppers at exclusive stores in Rome and nightclub owners in the business city Milan.
The clampdown has also featured TV advertisements that brand tax dodgers as "parasites of society," while the government has said that Italy and Switzerland are close to signing a tax agreement for cooperation in this field.
Monti has expressed his support for the tax-collection agency, which has been hit by an escalating series of letter-bomb threats amid tension over austerity measures.
The agency has launched this week a new computer data system comparing taxpayers' income with their spending, which will be used as a control instrument aimed mainly at tax compliance.