New property tax causes uproar

The Finance Ministry’s online posting of dues for the new Single Property Ownership Tax (ENFIA) on Monday gave the jitters to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers, as tax notifications were evidently based on a plethora of omissions and faulty data.

Tax accountants argued that properties were overtaxed in no less than 457 districts across the country, while tax officials referred citizens protesting the exorbitant sums calculated to ministry headquarters. The Finance Ministry itself issued a statement admitting distortions and omissions – which it said will be corrected – but made no reference to whether the first of five installments, due at the end of the month, would have to be paid regardless.

“Distortions and omissions, due to the non-exhaustive consideration given to all the special cases envisaged by law, led to excessive calculations, especially as regards some land plots in rural areas,” said the statement. But the ministry also put part of the blame on the taxpayers themselves, implying that many may have declared false data regarding their properties in the past: “Distortions have also been highlighted now that a detailed electronic processing of all data has been carried out.”

The ministry said faulty data or omissions entered in past declarations may be corrected by amendment until November 30, without being liable to fines, and that any excessive dues paid by that time will be rebated when the final clearing is made.

Critics pointed out that some of the mistakes were inexusably blatant. Families with three children or more and earthquake victims on the island of Cephalonia, for example, were not partly exempted despite a specification in the law.

ENFIA, the new tax, incorporates all previous property levies, including the emergency tax collected for the first time via electricity bills in 2011. According to sources, some government officials fear the issue may become a friction point in upcoming negotiations with the troika, which views the electricity-bill surcharge as highly collectible but now likely to be compromised by the confusion surrounding ENFIA.

The main opposition SYRIZA party said the notifications uploaded for property owners were “clear proof of the government’s barbaric and unfair tax policy.”