Greek shipowners rebuff EU decision on taxation

21 January 2016
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Greek shipowners on Thursday rebuffed a European Commission request to Greek authorities last month to review -in the next two months- which ships would be opted for inclusion under a Greek favorable tax system and exclude fishing vessels, tow vessels and yachts from this system.

“There is no fundamental distortion of competition in the sea transport sector in the European Union and any changes in the institutional and fiscal framework could have unforeseen consequences, damaging not only Greece but the rest of the European Union,” the Greek Shipowners Union said in an announcement.

The Commission said that existing tax regulation could breach EU rules on state support, as they offered the ability to shipping company shareholders and other intermediate agencies in the shipping sector to take advantage of favorable tax treatment which should be exclusively offered to sea transport enterprises.

Greek shipowners said that the Greek shipping institutional framework pre-existed the guiding lines on state support on sea transport for several years, therefore Greece was not an exception and added that “the Greek shipping framework was acknowledged fully when Greece entered the European Economic Community in 1981 and has not been questioned so far and has become a significant part of national policy in attracting investments in the shipping sector”.

In the announcement, the Union noted that “the death of European commercial shipbuilding industry came because of lack of necessary support to deal with international competition”, adding that a European Commission decision on the Greek tax system on shipping and its declaration that this case would be used as precedent to re-evaluate other European shipping systems, would create serious turbulence to the shipping sector in the European Union.

It stressed that the Greek shipping industry was never part of the problem of Greek state debt and, in contrary, its contribution to the Greek economy and the balance of payments in the last 35 years has been systematically proven fundamental and irreplaceable. It added that it was a serious misunderstanding that taxation of Greek shipping companies and of shipowners was very low, or minimal and stressed that in reality taxation has increased in the last few years because of a series of pioneer agreements signed with the Greek government and ranks among the highest taxation levels in the shipping sector worldwide.

The Union expressed concern that a negative climate created by the EU’s decision could seriously undermine one of the basic pylons of the Greek economy in a period of extremely high unemployment and need for growth prospects and warned that the European Union could lose a significant part of its fleet.

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