ND promises corporate tax cuts, simpler regulations

Opposition New Democracy’s spokesman on economic affairs Giorgos Alogoskoufis yesterday promised an audience of businesspeople that, once in power, his party would cut taxes and unnecessary auditing of small firms. Alogoskoufis also criticized the government’s failure to lower inflation still further, make inroads into poverty and reduce the debt level. On the other hand, Alogoskoufis was pointedly asked exactly what policies his party would follow, given that several prominent New Democracy members appeared to be competing on who could promise the most to each pressure group. Speaking at the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry (EVEA), Alogoskoufis said that New Democracy was in favor of reducing corporate tax on companies listed on the Athens Stock Exchange to 30 percent from the current 35 percent. He also promised that his party would abolish mandatory auditing of businesses with a turnover of less than 1 million euros, substituting sample auditing in its place; that the level of tax prepayments demanded from companies would fall slightly and diminish considerably for new firms – up to three years old – and that it would simplify the tax code. Not to be outdone, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis promised, in turn, simpler tax regulations and sample auditing of small and medium-sized firms as well. Christodoulakis was speaking at a meeting of small businessmen at Peristeri, which is in the electoral district he will likely stand as a candidate during the next elections. Commenting on Alogoskoufis’s speech, EVEA President Drakoulis Foundoukakos said that the existing tax regulations and the inability of small and medium-sized enterprises to take out cheap loans prevented the creation of new enterprises and jobs. Enterprises are waiting – for any government – to make bold reforms on the social security system, cut spending, keep the state away from business activity, deregulate the labor market and open up education, energy and transport to more private competition. «The business community has one question: What is the policy that New Democracy has decided to apply? Most of its members acknowledge the need for structural reforms, but there are others who compete on who will make promises of unlimited handouts,» Foundoukakos said. Alogoskoufis did not tackle the question directly, preferring to concentrate on the government’s record. He said the Socialists’ welfare policies had failed to have a significant impact on people’s income. While EU countries had succeeded in reducing the number of people below the poverty level from 24 to 15 percent, in Greece, the decline was only one percentage point (from 22 to 21 percent), Alogoskoufis said.