Greeks are facing a tax Babylon.
The provisions of recent tax laws are confusing tax officers, accounting officers and taxpayers who are trying to understand them in vain. Interestingly, the text of these tax provisions was initially created in English. The bad translation has introduced terms which are unfamiliar even to tax officials and accountants.
At the same time, the number of provisions which are unclear and which must necessarily be explained by legal and tax departments of the Ministry of Finance is increasing and the "manufacturing" in terms of their issuance is continuing. More than 1,100 circulars interpreting tax laws have been issued within a year.
The central office of the Ministry receives dozens of questions every day, but this does not mean that they can be answered. As a result, taxpayers are wasting their time in order to flock to tax authorities and argue with officers who try to service them. The tax chaos has frozen thousands of transactions and at the same time tax officials, accountants, freelancers, notaries, investors, property owners, workers, pensioners and farmers are on tenterhooks.
All transfers of property have been blocked. Stock exchange investors do not know what tax they will pay for transactions. Accountants are in despair because of fines and farmers do not know how they will be levied. Workers and retirees are expecting the ministry's decision on what and how many receipts they will need to collect this year. Two more problems can be added to all this.
The first is related to accounting departments of companies and insurance funds which do not know how to deduct the salary tax. Accounting departments do not know whether those who work on a civil contract will be levied by a 20% tax, like those who work on an employment contract. There is no decision about the tax which pensioners will pay either.
The second problem concerns the Common property tax. Employees of the Ministry and tax officials believe that there will be queues at tax authorities again, arguing that huge problems in terms of the calculation of taxes on agricultural land would be created, as well as regarding the identification of owners.
The main problems which infuriate taxpayers, the business community, accountants and tax officials include:
• The property tax
Sales of real estate have been frozen for 10 days, following the decision of notaries to refrain from drawing up and signing of title-deeds. According to information, property sellers will first go to the tax office in order to check what tax they will need to pay because of the sale, and title-deeds will be drawn up afterwards. The notary will be only responsible for the deduction and payment of the capital gains tax. The declaration will be submitted by the seller to the tax office before signing the deal at the notary. The tax will be verified and a note for liabilities will be issued. The tax will be levied on property owners based on the actual value at the time of sale, and not based on today’s tax assessment which has nothing to do with reality.
• Confusion with receipts
Last week, various pieces of information leaked from the Ministry of Finance. Even today, workers and pensioners do not know which receipts will be valid to 100% of their value and which to 50%.
• The special property tax which is paid together with electricity bills for 2012
Thousands of property owners have been confused since they believed that they had paid the tax for 2012, but it turned out that the last instalment was calculated with the money for electricity for the coming months. The delay in the payment of the last instalment also created chaos.
Outrage over fines
Businessmen and accountants consider fines disruptive and claim that there will be no benefits to the Treasury, but arrears will increase instead. On the other hand, tax inspectors are talking about gaps in the law which hinder its implementation
Representatives of accountants and the business community are trying to rationalize fines via new legislation. They warned that if the Ministry did not rationalize fines, they would go to Justice for the annulment of the provisions as unconstitutional, since double to quadruple taxation is required on the same tax base and for the same reason. The Ministry of Finance has not officially responded to these objections yet, neither has issued regulations in order to clarify how the new sanctions’ regime which contributes to the confusion and uncertainty will be implemented.
However, yesterday, officials from the Ministry of Finance talked about a 50% reduction of fines. Changes considered by the economic team refer to a 1,000 euro reduction of the fine for a delayed submission of VAT returns (2,500 for large enterprises), as well as for the fines provided for not issuing receipts.