I INTRODUCTION

Greece remains a jurisdiction where medium and large businesses are owned and managed by Greek families who need advice on the structuring of the generational transfer of business. Furthermore, Greece attracts foreigners that relocate to Greece and require pre-immigration advice on the operation of the Greek forced heirship rules and the tax efficiency of existing ownership structures.

In addition, Greece attracts investments in real estate, by non-resident private clients, who need advice on the structuring of the acquisition, ownership and disposal of such investments. Furthermore, due to the beneficial tax regime of shipping companies operating under the
L 27/1975, Greece attracts relevant activities. Lately, amendments have been introduced into the Greek tax legislation dealing with individuals’ wealth, such as provisions relating to controlled foreign companies (CFC) rules.

The new Income Tax Code (Law 4172/2013 (ITC)), effective from 1 January 2014, as recently amended, introduces a number of significant changes to the tax rules including measures designated to combat tax avoidance and tax evasion. For instance, under the new ITC, any wealth increase deriving from an illegal, unjustified or unknown source or cause is considered as business profits subject to tax at 33 per cent.

In addition, the new Tax Procedures Code (Law 4174/2013 (TPC)), as recently amended, which is a separate piece of legislation, explicitly introduces a ‘general anti-avoidance provision’, as a measure to combat tax avoidance and tax evasion. In this frame, under Article 66 of the TPC, the meaning of acts of tax avoidance is broadened and the meaning of concealment of income is clarified.

Finally, in terms of ruling, from a tax perspective, wealth, income and succession planning, Greece may use an extensive double taxation treaty network (57 income tax treaties and five estate tax treaties).

II TAX

i Greek tax residence

Individuals who are tax residents of Greece are subject to Greek income tax on their worldwide income (Greek and foreign income) while a foreign tax credit is provided on foreign income declared in accordance with the OECD guidelines for the avoidance of double taxation. Non-Greek tax residents are subject to Greek income tax only for their income sourced in Greece. The Greek ITC provides an indicative list of income considered as arising in Greece (Greek-sourced income).

For income tax purposes, an individual is considered as a Greek tax resident, provided that he or she maintains in Greece his or her permanent or primary residence or habitual abode or the centre of his or her vital interests (i.e., personal or economic or social bonds) or he or she is a consular or diplomatic employee or public officer of similar status or a civil servant of Greek nationality and serving abroad.

Also, an individual residing in Greece continuously for a period or more than 183 days is considered as a Greek tax resident. This is not applicable in cases of an individual residing in Greece exclusively for tourism, medical, therapeutic or similar private purposes, if his or her residence does not exceed a period of 365 days, including short-term stays abroad. The above provision may not be applicable if a double taxation treaty (DTT) (ratified by law) exists, in which case DTT provides a different way of taxation to the tax residence of the other country – party of the DTT. It is mentioned that DTT, by its integration into Greek (domestic) law, has automatically acquired an increased legislative power over the domestic legislation, according to Article 28 of the Greek Constitution.

Greece has entered into DTTs with the following countries providing beneficial income tax provisions compared to internal income tax legislation: San Marino, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Georgia, Denmark, Switzerland, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, United States, United Kingdom, India, Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Israel, Italy, Canada, Qatar, Netherlands, China, Korea, Kuwait, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Morocco, Mexico, Malta, Moldavia, South Africa, Norway, Hungary, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, Czech Republic, Tunisia and Finland.

ii Income tax

The following four categories of income are subject to income tax under the current ITC:

  • a income derived from employment and pension;
  • b income derived from business activities;
  • c capital income; and
  • d capital gains income.

Different tax rates apply to the above categories for individuals. The applicable tax rates are either progressive or tax exhaustive (one-off tax). The above-mentioned types of income are taxed as follows.

Income derived from employment or pensions

Income derived from employment or pensions is considered to be the gross income from salaried work and pensions, and includes all types of income, in cash or kind acquired, in the context of any current, past or future employment relationship. In addition, the ITC explicitly provides that the board of directors’ fees are categorised as employment income for tax purposes.

Apart from the general provision for the taxation of salaries, the ITC contains provisions for the taxation of specific benefits in kind annually exceeding €300 that are considered as taxable income derived from employment for the employee and are added to the gross income from salaried work and pensions. Benefits in kind indicatively include the following:

  • a the value of goods represented by gift cheques;
  • b the value of vouchers given free of charge to purchase goods or services at associated stores. In the case of food vouchers, the benefit in kind is assumed to be any amount exceeding €6 per working day;
  • c use of company credit cards to cover expenses not incurred on behalf of the company, but to cover personal, family or other expenses unrelated to the business interests of the employer or not used in normal commercial transactions, where the cost is assumed by the employer;
  • d the benefit accruing to employees, managers, administrators, board members and pensions or companies providing energy, telephony, water supplies, gas, subscriber services (like television) from providing them with a certain quantity of electricity, phone calls, water, natural gas, and subscriber channels, at either a reduced rate or free of charge;
  • e various payments made directly by employers to third parties such as payments to extra tuition centres, schools, kindergartens, campsites, etc., to cover tuition costs, kindergarten fees, etc., direct payments to cover the cost of such persons participating in workshops, programmes or training, education training courses, or to cover subscriptions to journals or chambers, unrelated to their business activities or the post they hold; and
  • f the provision of company mobile phone connections to employees, managers and board members to the extent that it goes beyond the cost of their tariff plan, provided that the excess above the tariff plan is used for personal reasons and not for reasons associated with the employer’s business activities.

From 1 January 2016, income from employment or pensions is taxed according to the following progressive tax scale.

Taxable income

Tax rate (%)

≤20,000

22%

20,001 to 30,000

29%

30,001 to 40,000

37%

≥40,001

45%

Income derived from business activities

Individuals are subject to income tax on business income, which is defined as the total revenue from business transactions as well as from independent professions after the deduction of any business expenses, depreciations and bad debts. The business income is taxed according to the following tax scale.

Taxable income

Tax rate (%)

≤20,000

22%

20,001 to 30,000

29%

30,001 to 40,000

37%

≥40,001

45%

Moreover, according to the ITC, any increase of wealth for an individual deriving from an illegal, unjustified or unknown source or cause is considered as income derived from business activities and is further subject to tax at 33 per cent.

Capital income

Capital income is a distinct category of income and includes the income, in cash or in kind, from dividends, interests, royalties and immoveable property.

Income from dividends is defined as the income from shares, founders’ shares, or other rights of participation in profits that are not debts, as well as income from other corporate rights, including interim dividends and actuarial reserves, profits from partnerships and any other distributed amount.

Income from interest is defined as the income on any kind of claims, either secured by mortgage or not, whether providing a right to participate in profits of the debtor or not. Specifically, this includes income from deposits, government securities, bonds (with or without security) and from every kind of loan agreement, including premiums, repurchase agreements or reverse repurchase agreements and rewards derived from shares, partnerships, bonds or securities. There is a tax exemption regarding the income by the interest of bond loans and treasury bills of the Greek state, received by individuals, as well as to the interest arising from bonds issued by the European Financial Stability Facility in application of the programme for the restructuring of the Greek debt.

Income from royalties is defined as the income gained in exchange for the use or the right to use any kind of intellectual property rights.

Income from real estate property is defined as the income (in cash or in kind) derived from leasing (rental), self-use or the free concession of the use of land or real estate property. The income received in kind is calculated as the market value. In addition, the income for self-use or the free concession of use is equal to 3 per cent of the objective value of the property. A tax exemption is applied to the aforementioned presumptive income in case of the free concession of the use of the real estate property – which shall not exceed 200 square metres – to a relative in the ascending or the descending line, who will use it as his or her main residence.

The capital income earned by an individual is subject to withholding tax as follows:

  • a dividends distribution is subject to a withholding tax at the rate of 10 per cent, with effect for payments performed up to the tax year 2016 and 15 per cent for the tax year 2017 onwards, exhausting any further tax liability for individuals (final tax);
  • b interest payments are subject to a withholding tax rate of 15 per cent, exhausting any further tax liability for individuals (final tax); and
  • c royalties payments are subject to a withholding tax at the rate of 20 per cent, exhausting any further tax liability for individuals (final tax).

Income from immoveable property sourced by the leasing (rental) or by the self-using (presumptive income) of the real estate property is subject to income tax in accordance with the following tax scale, which is applicable to income gained from 1 January 2016.

Income

Tax rate

≤12,000

15%

12,001 to 35,000

35%

≥35,001

45%

Capital gains income

Any surplus that arises from the transfer of capital (i.e., real estate property, securities, listed shares, sovereign bonds, interest-bearing bills, company bills or derivative financial products as described in the ITC) is considered income from capital gains and is subject to tax at a rate of 15 per cent. The taxable surplus is the difference between the purchase (acquisition) price and the transfer (selling) price. An exemption from the said tax is applied in special cases. For example, any capital gains derived from the transfer of securities by individuals could be exempted from capital gains tax if said individuals are tax residents of another state with which a DTT has been signed, and provided that all the necessary documentation is submitted to the relevant tax administration authority, evidencing the residence of the aforementioned individuals to these states.

Taxation on capital gains from the transfer of real estate property is postponed until 31 December 2016.

iii Special income tax provisions provided by the ITC
Alternative method for determining minimum taxation (deemed income)

The ITC provides an alternative method for calculating the minimum tax obligation of individuals according to certain objective criteria. If, after application of those objective criteria, the deemed income of the taxpayer is higher than the declared income, he or she will be taxed according to its deemed income.

Deemed income may derive either from ‘living expenses’ from assets owned or from ‘actual expenses’ from the amount spent to purchase assets and is calculated after taking into account the following objective criteria:

  • a the surface area of the main residence of the taxpayer in combination with its tax value;
  • b the surface area of any secondary residences of the taxpayer;
  • c the size of the engines (i.e., 1,200cc, 1,400cc) of any cars of the taxpayer, in combination with the year of the car’s production;
  • d salaries of housemaids and other staff;
  • e fees for private schools for the taxpayer’s children;
  • f leisure boats;
  • g aeroplanes; and
  • h swimming pools.

Purchases of cars, motorcycles, boats, aeroplanes and other goods that cost above €5,000, the establishment or the participation in the capital increase of a company under the form of an unlimited or limited liability partnership or corporation or limited liability company or private corporation or society of civil law or joint venture or purchase of company parts or securities are taken into account in the calculation of the taxpayer’s annual deemed income. The taxpayer can, under certain conditions, cover the difference between actually declared income and income that is deemed after the application of the above rules, by showing that the amount in excess of the declared income is justified by savings made from income taxed in previous years.

Deemed income provisions are not applicable in the case of a foreign tax resident who does not earn income from Greek sources.

Controlled foreign companies (CFC)

CFC rules have recently been introduced in the ITC, with the aim of dealing with the tax avoidance of Greek companies or individuals, through shifting revenues to subsidiaries in low-tax jurisdictions.

It is specified that the taxable income of an individual Greek tax resident includes the non-distributed income of legal or other entities tax-resident in another state, provided that the following conditions are cumulatively met:

  • a the taxpayer, on his or her own or jointly with related persons, holds, directly or indirectly, shares, parts, participations, voting rights or participations in the capital at a percentage exceeding 50 per cent, or is entitled to receive a percentage exceeding 50 per cent of the profits of the said legal or other entity;
  • b the above legal or other entity is subject to taxation in a non-cooperative state or state with a preferential tax regime, namely to a special regime allowing for a substantially lower level of taxation than the general regime;
  • c a percentage exceeding 30 per cent of the net income before taxes realised by the legal entity or other entity falls in one or more of the following categories:

• interest or any other income generated from financial assets;

• royalties or any other income generated from intellectual property;

• income derived from dividends and the transfer of shares;

• income derived from moveable assets;

• income derived from real estate property, unless the Member State of the taxpayer, legal entity or other entity would not be entitled to tax such income according to an agreement concluded with a third country; and

• income derived from insurance, bank and other financial activities; and

  • d it is not a company with a principal category of shares that are traded in an organised market.

The above shall not apply to cases where the legal person or legal entity is a tax resident of a Member State of the European Union or a tax resident of a country that is a party to the EEA Agreement, unless the legal person or legal entity’s establishment or economic activities are an artificial arrangement devised for the purpose of avoiding the corresponding tax.

This income is taxed at the rates applicable to income derived from business activities, as they are provided above.

iv Solidarity tax contribution on individuals’ income from tax year 2016

As a result of economic crisis, a special solidarity tax contribution is imposed on individuals’ total income (both declared and deemed income) of any source that exceeds €12,000 on an annual basis.

For income earned from 1 January 2016, a solidarity tax contribution is imposed in accordance with the progressive rates below.

0 to 12,000

0%

12,001 to 20,000

2.2%

20,001 to 30,000

5%

30,001 to 40,000

6.5%

40,001 to 65,000

7.5%

65,001 to 220,000

9%

≥220,001

10%

In addition, as of 27 May 2016, salaries and wages are subject to withholding tax against solidarity tax contributions in accordance with the above rates.

v Luxury living tax

As a result of economic crisis, from the tax year 2014, a luxury living tax applies on individuals’ income, calculated on the amounts of the annual deemed expeditures arising from the ownership or holding of private passenger cars, aeroplanes, helicopters, yachts and swimming pools, as follows:

  • a for passenger cars from 1,929cc to 2,500cc a tax rate of 5 per cent is applied;
  • b for passenger cars more than 2,500cc a tax rate of 13 per cent is applied (private passenger car with more than 10 years’ use since their first year in traffic are exempted from said tax); and
  • c for aircrafts, helicopters, swimming pools and yachts more than 5 metres long, a tax rate of 13 per cent is applied.
vi Real estate tax
Real estate transfer tax

The rate of the real estate transfer tax is 3 per cent calculated on the value of the real estate property. For tax purposes, a system has been established for the objective calculation of the value (i.e., based on a system of minimum values). According to this system, if contracting parties declare a price lower than the objective price, the taxes are based on the objective price (higher price). Lately, the actual sale prices of real estate in Greece have been significantly reduced and have been much lower than the objective values. As a result, the paid tax on the objective values provided by Greek law is higher than the tax that would be calculated on the actual sale price according to the contract.

Annual real estate tax (ENFIA)

ENFIA is imposed on real estate property rights including main and supplementary tax (for real estate over €200,000) and applies to real estate located in Greece that is owned by individuals and entities. ENFIA is payable on an annual basis. The tax payable depends on a number of factors.

Special tax real estate

A special tax applies on the value of real estate situated in Greece and owned by a company that has its registered seat at a non-cooperative state, as provided under Article 65 of ITC, at a tax rate of 15 per cent. However, if the company discloses all of its shareholders or ultimate beneficiaries (individuals) who hold a tax identification number in Greece, it is exempt from the special tax. Many other exemptions are also provided.

III SUCCESSION

i Applicable law

According to international private law, Regulation No. 650/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 ‘on jurisdiction, applicable law, recognition and enforcement of decisions and acceptance and enforcement of authentic instruments in matters of succession and on the creation of a European Certificate of Succession’, with effect from 17 August 2015, shall apply. The regulation applies to all civil aspects of the succession to the estates of deceased people. It does not apply to revenue (for example, tax matters), customs or administrative matters. Areas of civil law other than succession, such as matrimonial property regimes, gifts and pension plans are not covered by the regulation.

Regarding the general jurisdiction, the courts of the EU country in which the deceased had his or her habitual residence at the time of death shall have jurisdiction to rule on the succession as a whole. As a rule, the law applicable to succession is the law of the country in which the deceased had his or her habitual residence at the time of death. It can be the law of either an EU or non-EU country. However, before his or her death, a person can instead choose that the applicable law should be the law of his or her country of nationality. For example, a person of multiple nationalities (including Greek) may choose that the applicable law shall be the Greek law. A declaration of this shall be made in the form of a disposition of property upon death (i.e., a will).

The applicable law will govern, for example, the determination of the beneficiaries and their respective shares, the capacity to inherit, the powers of the heirs, the executors of the wills and the administrators of the estate, the liability for the debts under the succession and the sharing out of the estate.

The application of a single law by a single authority to an international succession avoids parallel proceedings, with possibly conflicting judicial decisions. It also ensures that decisions given in an EU country are recognised throughout the EU without need for any special procedure. Decisions enforceable in the EU country where they have been given are enforceable in another EU country when, on the application of an interested party, they have been declared enforceable there by the local court.

The aforementioned regulation also introduces a European Certificate of Succession (ECS) to be used by heirs, legatees having direct rights in the succession and executors of wills or administrators of the estate to invoke their status or exercise their rights or powers in another EU country. Once issued, the ECS will be recognised in all EU countries without any special procedure being required. In contrast with national certificates of succession, which have different effects depending on the EU country of issue, the ECS will have the same effects, set out in the Regulation, in all EU countries.

Forced heirship rules

Greek succession law provides for forced heirship rules. The rules on forced heirship protect the closest relatives of the decedent, who may not disinherit them. Forced heirs are always entitled to a certain percentage of the estate (legitimate portion of the estate).

Forced heirs are the descendants of the deceased (children), the surviving spouse and the parents of the deceased. According to Greek inheritance law, forced heirs are entitled to half of the portion they are entitled to in the case of intestacy.

Under forced heirship rules, any disposal by will of the decedent’s estate to the prejudice of the forced heirs is void. Moreover, if the testator donates his or her estate and as a consequence the estate at death is not sufficient to cover the legitimate portions of estate for the forced heirs, then said donation may be cancelled.

ii Taxation of inheritance and gifts inter vivos

According to Article 1 of Law 2961/2001 (the Code on taxation of inheritance, gifts inter vivos and lottery gains), tax is imposed to any asset acquired by inheritance, gift inter vivos and winnings in lotteries, whether acquired by an individual or a corporate entity.

Inheritance tax

The legislator provides for a list of assets that are subject to inheritance tax. These are property of any kind situated in Greece that belongs to Greek citizens or foreigners, and moveable property situated abroad that belongs to a Greek resident or (under conditions) to a foreigner residing in Greece. Moveable property that is located abroad and belongs to a Greek citizen who was established outside Greece for at least 10 consecutive years is exempt from Greek inheritance tax.

Gift tax

The legislator provides for a list of assets that are subject to gift tax. These are:

  • a any moveable or immoveable property situated in Greece;
  • b any moveable property of a Greek citizen situated abroad; and
  • c any moveable property of a foreign national situated abroad that is being gifted or donated to a Greek or foreign citizen who resides in Greece.

The categories of rates of inheritance and gift tax depend on the relationship of the taxpayers to the decedent or donor. Taxpayers are classed into three categories depending on their proximity to the deceased. Category A includes:

  • a the spouse;
  • b the partner who has a contract for co-habitation according to the provisions of Law 3719/2008, provided that the partnership was in existence at the time of death and it lasted at least two years;
  • c children;
  • d grandchildren; and
  • e parents.

Category B includes:

  • a great-grandchildren et seq;
  • b grandparents and great-grandparents;
  • c voluntarily or judicially recognised children as against the parents of the father who recognised them;
  • d the children of a recognised child as against the father who recognised them and his parents;
  • e brothers and sisters;
  • f collateral relatives of the third degree;
  • g stepfathers and stepmothers;
  • h children of the spouse from a previous marriage; and
  • i brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law.

Category C includes the remaining relatives and aliens.

The following table illustrates the inheritance tax rates, also applicable on gifts, for the three categories of individuals.

Category A

Value in €

Tax rate

Tax

Total value

Total tax

150,000

150,000

150,000

1%

1,500

300,000

1,500

300,000

5%

15,000

600,000

16,500

Above

10%

 

 

 

Category B

30,000

30,000

70,000

5%

3,500

100,000

3,500

200,000

10%

20,000

300,000

23,500

Above

20%

 

 

 

Category C

6,000

6,000

66,000

20%

13,200

72,000

13,200

195,000

30%

58,500

267,000

71,700

Above

40%

 

 

 

As an exception, by virtue of Law 3842/2010, monetary gifts inter vivos are taxed at a rate of 10 per cent when the gift is given to a relative of category A, 20 per cent for category B and 40 per cent for category C.

Tax treaties for the avoidance of double inheritance taxation

Individuals that are subject to Greek inheritance tax on their worldwide assets can benefit from the Greece inheritance tax treaties. Greece has entered into tax treaties for the avoidance of double taxation in inheritance and estate tax with Germany, Italy, Spain and the United States to prevent double taxation. Thus, individuals that are subject to Greek inheritance tax on their worldwide assets can benefit from the Greek inheritance and estate tax treaties.

IV WEALTH STRUCTURING & REGULATION

i Trusts

Trusts are a commonly used vehicle for wealth structuring. The ITC recognises trusts, in general, as taxable legal entities for corporate income tax purposes. The provisions regarding income tax on trusts have not yet been interpreted by the Greek Ministry of Finance and no specific advance ruling currently exists for them. In general, the Greek Ministry of Finance has clarified that any distribution of profits, either Greek-sourced or foreign-sourced, by legal persons or entities, trusts and offshore companies, falls within the definition of dividends, being that considered as taxable income, and is subject to Greek income tax.

In addition, under the Greek Inheritance and Gifts Tax Code (Law 2961/2001), trusts are recognised under certain conditions. In particular, if any assets (property) are acquired and taxed in Greece, although located abroad, and are placed by will under a trust management governed by Anglo-American law, then the beneficial owners of sums, collected from time to time by the said trust, are taxed for those sums directly at the time of acquisition, unless there is any reason for exemption. Those who eventually acquire the property as the trust is dissolved are taxed for the property’s full ownership at the time of the property’s transfer. This provision of the Inheritance and Gift Tax Code deals only with a case where a person settles property on trust law for the benefit of beneficiaries, as a testator, but no Greek tax provision applies to a case where the settlor is a grantor or donor. Moreover there are few advance rulings dealing with the tax treatment on trust law if the settler is a grantor or donor and not a testator.

Greek tax legislation has not introduced any special provision (apart from the above) relating to the tax treatment of the transfer of assets, not by will, to a trust that is not governed by Anglo-American law upon the trust’s establishment. In addition, the Greek tax legislation has not generally regulated the relation between the above-mentioned provisions of the ITC and Greek Inheritance and Gifts Tax Code.

ii Shipping companies operating under Law 27/1975

Because of the beneficial tax regime of shipping companies operating under the L 27/1975, Greece attracts Greek or foreign ship-owning companies with vessels flying a Greek flag and foreign ship-owning companies with vessels flying a foreign flag, if their management is exercised by Greek companies or foreign companies established in Greece (operating under a special regime of offshore companies), which are subject to tonnage tax.

The Greek tonnage tax regime applies to vessels of categories ‘A’ and ‘B’. Category ‘A’ vessels includes cargo vessels, tankers, steel hull vessels for dry or liquid cargo that ply to or between foreign ports, passenger vessels, drilling platforms, etc., while category ‘B’ vessels include small boats and any other motor vessels not listed under category ‘A’. The gross tonnage is calculated by multiplying coefficient rates by each scale of gross registered tonnage. This taxable tonnage is then multiplied by an age-corrected rate. A credit for the tonnage tax paid abroad is provided.

The shipowner is liable to pay the ship’s tonnage tax, whether an individual or a legal entity, who is the registered owner of the relevant ship on the first day of each calendar year. The person managing the ship and collecting the hire as well as the manager’s representative, subject to the latter having accepted the relevant appointment in writing, are also jointly and severally liable to pay the ship’s tonnage tax.

Various exemptions and reductions of the tonnage tax apply, such as vessels built in shipyards in Greece, under a Greek flag, are exempt from tax for the first six years. Also, a 50 per cent reduction for vessels operating regular routes between Greek and foreign ports or solely between foreign ports.

The payment of the tonnage tax exhausts all income tax liability of the shipowner with respect to income derived from the ship’s operation; the exhaustion of tax liability also applies to the shareholders or partners of a (Greek or foreign) shipping company. It also covers all capital gains arising out of the sale of the vessel, realised at the level of either the shipowner, shipping company or their shareholders. If a company that owns a Greek-flagged ship also has commercial activities other than the operation of the ship, exemption from income tax applies to the net profits that correspond pro rata to the gross income the owner derives from ships, subject to the tonnage tax regime.

In addition, the shareholders of the above-mentioned companies are exempt from any tax, duty, contribution or withholding, up to natural person, for the income acquired from dividends or distribution of net profits, whether such profits are acquired directly or through holding companies. Exemption from any taxation of the transfer of shares or parts of Greek or foreign shipowner companies, under Greek or foreign flags, regardless the reason of the transfer applies. On the contrary, a 10 per cent withholding tax is applicable on dividend distributions to Greek tax residents by offices that are engaged in activities such as chartering, insurance, brokerage, etc, other than the management and exploitation of Greek or foreign-flagged ships.

According to Article 29 of Law 27/1975, exemption from inheritance tax applies with respect to transfers of vessels, stocks or shares of Greek or foreign companies that own vessels flying a Greek or foreign flag with gross tonnage of over 1,500 and of stocks or shares of holding companies that hold stocks or shares of shipping companies, whether directly or through holding companies.

Finally, an annual contribution, at a rate of 3 to 5 per cent, referring to the years 2012–2015, and at a rate of 5 to 7 per cent, referring to the years 2016–2019, is imposed on offices or branches of foreign enterprises that have been established in Greece by virtue of Article 25 of L 27/1975 and that are engaged in the chartering, insurance, average (damage) settlements, purchase, chartering or shipbuilding brokerage, or chartering of insurance of ships under the Greek or foreign flag whose capacity excedes 500 gross registered tons, as well as the representation of shipowner companies or undertakings, whose object is identical to the above-mentioned activities. Greek and foreign companies that have established an office or branch of L 27/1975 and are engaged in the management of vessels flying a Greek or foreign flag, as well as in other activities approved by their licence of operation, are exempt from the above-mentioned annual contribution.

iii Anti-avoidance tax provisions

A general anti-avoidance tax rule has been introduced for the first time under Article 38 of the Tax Procedures Code (TPC), according to which the tax administration may disregard any artificial arrangement or series of arrangements, performed either by individuals or legal entities, that aim to evade taxation and lead to a tax advantage.

An arrangement is considered artificial if it lacks commercial or economic substance. To determine whether an arrangement is artificial various characteristics are examined. For the purposes of this provision, the goal of an arrangement is to avoid taxation in the event that, regardless of the subjective intention of the taxpayer, it is contrary to the object spirit and purpose of the tax provisions that would apply in the other cases. In order to determine the tax advantage, the amount of tax due taking into consideration such arrangement is compared to the tax payable by the taxpayer under the same conditions in the absence of such arrangement.

Finally, by virtue of specific tax provisions, transactions (e.g., expenses) between domestic entities and entities of non-cooperative states or states with beneficial tax regimes (e.g., offshore entities) are not recognised for income tax purposes.

iv Infringements of tax avoidance (Article 66 of L 4174/2013)

Under Article 66 of the Tax Procedures Code (Law 4174/2013) (TPC), a taxpayer is considered to have committed the main offence of tax evasion in the following cases:

  • a Where the taxpayer conceals from the tax authorities taxable income from any source or assets, in particular by failing to submit tax returns, by submitting inaccurate tax returns, by recording (totally or partially) fictitious costs in his or her accounting records, or by using such fictitious costs so as not to disclose or to disclose reduced taxable income with the intention of avoiding to pay income tax, property tax or special property tax.
  • b Where the taxpayer fails to make payment, makes incorrect payment, offsets or incorrectly deducts taxes or misleads the tax authorities by presenting false facts as real or by concealing real facts by which he or she fails to make payment, makes incorrect payment or offsets or incorrectly deducts taxes or incorrectly receives a tax refund, or makes a tax withholding with the intention of avoiding to pay value added tax, turnover tax, insurance premium tax, withholding tax and contributions.
  • c Where the taxpayer fails to make payment, or makes incorrect payment, of the special vessels tax, with the intention of avoiding paying such tax.

 

V CONCLUSIONS & OUTLOOK

Wealth and succession planning for high net worth individuals is in demand in Greece. Greece has entered into many DTTs. Trusts are now recognised as taxable legal entities for corporate income tax purposes and are commonly used as a vehicle for wealth and succession planning purposes. It is also important to note that shipping companies operating under Law 27/1975 are attractive to wealthy individual for use as vehicles for Greek tax purposes because they fall under a beneficial tax regime.

On the other hand, new tax provisions have been introduced, such as the CFC rules and other ‘tax evasion’ or ‘artificial arrangement’ provisions, with the aim of addressing tax evasion and preventing techniques that lead to a tax advantage. In line with the aim of these provisions, Greek tax authorities have been adopting a stricter attitude and policy towards any kind of tax planning.

Footnotes

1 Aspasia Malliou is a partner and Maria Kilatou is an associate of the tax law department at PotamitisVekris. This article was originally written by Aspasia Malliou and Eleni Siabi (a former associate of PotamitisVekris); it has been updated by Aspasia Malliou and Maria Kilatou. In addition, it has been reviewed by Alexios Papastavrou and Despoina Charakopoulou. Alexios Papastavrou is a partner and Despoina Charakopoulou is an associate of the family and inheritance law department at PotamitisVekris.