Data show spike in people renouncing inheritance to avoid taxes

16 March 2017
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An increasing number of people are turning their backs on properties they have inherited to avoid paying the higher taxes that accompany them, according to new data from the country’s courts which show that applications for renunciation of property rose 86.4 percent last year compared to 2013.

According to the latest statistics, which were made public on Wednesday, a total of 54,422 such applications were lodged with the country’s local courts last year, compared to 45,628 in 2015 and 29,199 in 2013.

Experts attribute the rise to the tremendous increase in property taxes that successive governments have imposed over the years as part of bailout agreements with Greece’s creditors. According to official figures, property owners paid seven times more in taxes last year compared to 2009, the year before the crisis hit. In 2009, property taxes did not exceed 500 million euros, while revenue collected from property reached 3.5 billion euros last year.

Most of those who filed documents last year to renounce their inheritance did so in the country’s major cities, with 11,655 applications recorded in Athens, 5,563 in Thessaloniki, 1,938 in Piraeus and 1,473 in Patra.

People are not only giving up family houses and apartments but also plots of lands.

According to Nikos Stasinopoulos, formerly the head of the association representing Greek notaries, many people in the provinces give up inherited land even when the tax they would have to pay on it is relatively small. He offered the example of one beneficiary in the region of Gortynia who gave up a plot on which he faced a 150-euro levy, and a second who inherited a total of 98 plots of land in the region of Larissa from his father and aunt and was “relieved” to discover that he could hand them over to the state to avoid paying tax.

Leftist SYRIZA came to power in 2015 on a pledge to roll back austerity in all areas, notably by revoking the much-reviled unified property tax which is known by its acronym ENFIA. However, it has since indicated that the hated tax must stay and might be tweaked at an unspecified date.

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