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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 09:43 GMT
Argentina's taxmen get Claus out
By Simon Watts
BBC News, Miami

Santa doll in a Buenos Aires mall
A Santa doll in Buenos Aires. The tax Santas are in blue and green
For officials in Buenos Aires, it is not the season to be jolly, it is the season to pay your taxes.

Tax inspectors are being deployed in Santa Claus outfits to try to encourage reluctant taxpayers in Argentina's capital to cough up.

The Santas are stopping passers-by to tell them about special benefits if they pay up this month.

It is the latest in a series of official campaigns against tax evasion in Argentina.

Licence plates

As part of the campaign, called "Holidays without Debt", around 100 Santas are out on the streets promoting the tax board's special Christmas offer.

If people in Buenos Aires province pay their arrears by the 20th, they could be eligible for a series of festive tax deductions.

The official leading the campaign said it was a chance to start the New Year in peace, free from the fear of prosecution.

It is not clear what Argentines will make of this initiative though, particularly because the Santas will not just be dispensing goodwill.

Some will be sent out to check car licence plates are in order - a move that is unlikely to be popular.

Other Santas will visit shops and businesses to make sure all transactions are being declared.

Lately, Argentina has made progress at stopping chronic tax evasion, which had contributed to its economic woes.

But like most people, Argentines will never enjoy paying up, especially at a time when the money could go on Christmas presents.

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