ECONOMY

Leasing growth set to continue in coming years

Continuously enriched with new products and with firms becoming increasingly acquainted with it as a method of financing investment, leasing is realizing steady growth in Greece, although the sector still accounts for only 9.80 percent of business investment in non-real estate, against a 20-percent average in the EU. In the next five years, business premises, the tourism industry (hotels, transport means and other installations), the construction sector and the broad shipping industry are projected to offer significant opportunities for the further growth of leasing. The main advantage offered by leasing are its tax incentives, particularly the deduction of interest from the sum of payments: 1) The leasing company provides 100-percent financing of capital and VAT. Businessmen or professionals do not put up any capital of their own. 2) 100 percent tax deductibility of leasing payments for equipment and buildings, which are considered expenses and reduce taxable income. 3) Leasing is preferable to borrowing for firms that wish to show expenses. 4) Leasing may be combined with investment incentive laws. 5) It boosts liquidity for the firm, which obtains better terms in the acquisition of equipment or buildings; the cost is met directly in cash by the leasing company. 6) The businessman is protected against the technological depreciation of his/her equipment and can renew it without tying up available capital. 7) The firm improves the picture of its balance sheet and capital structure as leasing payments do not appear in liabilities. 8) A depreciation rate of 15 percent applies to a range of items, such as construction equipment, passenger vehicles, cranes and forklift trucks, and machinery for production of chemical products. 9) A depreciation rate of 20 percent applies to telephone switchboards, fax machines, photocopiers, furniture, cameras and tourist coaches. 10) VAT on leasing expenses is offset against VAT on sales, with the exceptions of VAT on car leasing expenses, which is deducted as expense from the firm’s annual gross income, and self-employed professionals who are not subject to VAT. 11) Only car leasing expenses are considered as proof of income earned, as opposed to the entire cost of purchasing a car. Car leasing contracts were worth 116.8 million euros, or 8.98 percent of the total in 2001. The sector estimates a total turnover of 1.5 billion euros for 2002.