owners up in arms over one-off levy
Plus, 27 November 2009
Lawyers and property market experts on Tuesday attacked the governments
plan for a one-off levy on properties valued at over 400,000 euros
as unconstitutional and said it amounted to a further blow to a market
already on its knees.
Representatives of property owners' and agents' associations told a
press conference that the economic and social consequences of the measure
would be enormous on a market that has already seen property transactions
drop 40 percent in 2008 and 30 percent this year. Athens Bar Association
president Dimitris Paxinos said property assets were an "easy target," while
others said the right to property was under attack.
"Legal provisions of any kind that encroach upon or undermine the core
of the right to property are in direct contravention of the Constitution," said
Stratos Paradias, president of the Hellenic Property Federation (POMIDA).
"Current fiscal requirements and the inability of the tax department
to identify tax evaders has driven the government to impose unbearable
burdens, and only selectively, on property owners," he added.
He also questioned the constitutionality of the reinstatement of tax
on inheritance and parental transfers and urged that empty properties
or buildings under construction not be subject to taxes. President
of the Building Constructors Association Dimitris Kapsimalis said he
feared large-scale unemployment in his sector, with foreign investment
going to Turkey. He proposed a series of measures for bolstering building
activity, such as tax breaks, as well as the suspension of the standard
property tax for seven years and of the "pothen esches" declaration
of means for three years for house purchases or construction valued
at up to 500,000 euros.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou
said he would not give in to "the terrorization of the middle class
in an aim to exempt large properties from taxation." He said the measure
would affect only 70,000 of the approximately 4.5 million property
owners in the country, and that the one-off levy would be imposed on
individual rather than total family property. If, for instance, two
members of a household own separate properties worth 350,000 euros
and 200,000 euros, they will not have to pay the levy, which will amount
to 0.1 percent for values between 400,000 and 600,000 euros and rise
to 0.9 percent on properties worth over 3 million euros.