Property owners up in arms over one-off levy
Athens 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.