The government yesterday appeared to be attaching conditions to implementing its pre-election pledges for lower corporate taxes and taking a different approach to monitoring businesses. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, who yesterday met with representatives of merchants and small businesses, said that the change of the tax regime and tax office inspections will depend on the behavior of the firms themselves, without elaborating further. Alogoskoufis said this was his first of many meetings with representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), whom he called «the backbone of the economy,» and it was mostly of an exploratory nature. «We discussed all issues of concern to (the businesspeople) and we repeated our pre-election commitments about providing support for the small and medium-sized enterprises, which are key to economic growth and the development of the country. I would like to remark that, concerning the process of tax regime reform, all (corporate) taxpayers should be aware that they are being judged. Because the change of the taxation system and the tax inspection process will also depend on the taxpayers’ behavior,» Alogoskoufis said. Alogoskoufis also pledged to meet regularly with representatives of SMEs. The Hellenic Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE), which met with Alogoskoufis and Deputy Economy Minister Christos Folias, presented them with a detailed list of «priority actions» in order to support commerce. These actions include: – An integrated policy for SMEs in all three main sectors (agriculture, industry and services); – Creation of a National council of SMEs, using the National Trade Observatory as a support body; – A special law on investment incentives targeted at SMEs; – More money for SMEs from the EU-funded Third Community Support Framework (CSF III) and the future CSF IV; – Imposing limits on building and expanding hypermarkets. Licensing such ventures should require traffic, environmental, economic and social impact assessment studies; – Keeping present opening hours unchanged, with the possibility of a voluntary half-hour closing time extension to 8:30 p.m. in winter and 9:30 p.m. in summer; – A strict application of the laws regarding illegal commerce and a new round of talks for further measures; – A lower tax rate for SMEs, defined as those companies with an annual turnover up to 1.5 million euros. The tax on profits should be 18 percent, compared to 25 percent for large enterprises. The actual tax rate for all enterprises is 35 percent. A simpler procedure for amortizing bad debts; – A fixed calendar for winter and summer sales. Winter sales should be limited to February while summer sales should start on July 20 and run until end-August; – Special offers should be limited to 10 percent of a shop’s stock. No special offers should be allowed 30 days before the start of a sales period. Only one price should be on display, not two – the original one and the offer price – as currently required; – Increasing the capital of the special backup fund for small enterprises to 300 million euros, so as to increase the number of recipients. If not feasible at once, the increase could be in two phases;. and – Creating an auxiliary professionals and self-employed fund. The General Confederation of Small Businesses and Artisans (GSEVEE) presented its own list of demands, which included: a stable tax regime; no changes in shops’ opening hours; a settlement of compound interest charges imposed by banks on loan defaulters; cutting back on red tape; incentives for resettlement of SMEs; a further development of industrial parks for SMEs; an increased participation of SMEs in state procurements; and the creation of a National Council for SMEs.