Tax collectors found 27.1 billion yen in undeclared taxes in fiscal 2000, down about 4.5 billion yen from the year before, due to the dismal economy, the National Tax Administration said in an annual white paper released Thursday.

In fiscal 2000, which ended March 31, 205 cases of tax evasion were uncovered, the same as the previous year, but the amounts per case were less. The administration filed criminal complaints in 146 cases, slightly lower than the 148 in 1999.

The 1999 tally was 31.61 billion yen, the lowest since the collapse of the asset-inflated bubble economy in the early 1990s. The 2000 figure is roughly equal to amounts around 1980, when the economy was flagging after an oil crisis, according to the report.

It also shows that in concealing income to dodge taxes, many used conventional methods such as hiding cash in underground vaults.

Other taxpayers, including companies, employed tricks such as padding expenses at foreign units or simply keeping funds offshore.

Against the backdrop of globalization in tax evasion, as well as increasing use of advanced information systems, the administration is opening an international investigation unit and a high-tech operation unit in July at its Osaka bureau. It opened the first such offices in Tokyo last year.

The figures for 2000 show large-scale evasion is becoming a thing of the past. The average amount per case was 132 million yen, down 22 million yen from 1999.

Of the 205 cases uncovered in 2000, the amount of hidden taxes was 300 million yen or more in 22 cases, compared with 24 the previous year.

Only five cases involved hidden taxes of 500 million yen or more, down from seven.

By industry, retailers accounted for the most cases at 25. They included apparel firms for young and female shoppers as well as firms marketing health and beauty products.

The largest individual case involved around 340 million yen and an unemployed Hokkaido woman who tried to dodge inheritance taxes.

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