Efforts to ease burden on taxpayers

The junior partners in the coalition government are trying to ease the burden on taxpayers and improve the government’s image as the discussion over the Finance Ministry’s multi-bill heats up ahead of its being tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

Talks between the ministry and representatives of junior partners PASOK and Democratic Left nearly hit a snag on Tuesday due to an intervention by PASOK president Evangelos Venizelos, who asked for specific measures that would bring relief to taxpayers and help the unemployed as well as aiding growth in certain key sectors of the economy, such as tourism.

However, any changes made to the bill – which has to be passed into law by this Sunday – would need the prior approval of the country’s international creditors, so the ministry is keen to avoid making any major amendments to its text due to lack of time.

Venizelos telephoned PASOK’s representatives in the talks and asked for three key points to be included in the bill: the reduction of value-added tax on food service from 23 to 13 percent, a provision for people without social security to receive free healthcare, and an improvement in the terms for the repayment of expired debts by taxpayers.

The PASOK chief also brought up a number of other issues, such as asking for talks to reduce VAT on heating oil now and not in June, during the next revision of the economy by Greece’s creditors. Socialist party sources said that PASOK is determined to keep up the pressure of asking for more concessions, with the party’s stance toward the multi-bill in Parliament remaining uncertain.

In contrast, the representative of Democratic Left said that while there is no chance of the party voting against the bill, it had asked that the families of the long-term unemployed be exempted from having to pay the special property tax currently tagged on to electricity bills, and that citizens with expired debts to local authorities be offered similar payment schemes to those who owe money to the tax authorities and social security funds.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras chose not to say anything on the issues posed by the coalition partners.

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