Tax changes to affect firms this year, personal incomes as of 2005 The Finance Ministry yesterday announced an end to the practice of blanket absolution for any past tax violations by firms through the optional payment of standard sums for each fiscal year. The measure will mean that a certain number of firms will not have to pay such sums for recent fiscal years. Under the abolished practice, introduced by the previous government, firms that did not opt to pay were liable to exhaustive tax inspections. Deputy Finance Minister Adam Regouzas said that the changes regarding company taxation rates in the taxation bill to be tabled in September will apply as of the 2004 fiscal year, while the changes in personal income tax rates will apply as of 2005. The rate on undistributed large company reserves for 2004 will be reduced to 25 percent, while the profits of small firms and of a number of self-employed will be subject to 20 percent. Regouzas said the government had not made up its mind when to introduce value-added tax (VAT) on new buildings and is not planning to raise the official property prices according to area soon. Exporters will start receiving about 60 million euros in VAT rebates in installments. He added that the new government is looking into why tax rebates in February were 211 percent up in relation to the same month of 2003. Two former ministers to head public energy heavyweights The government yesterday announced the appointment of former economy minister and governor of the Bank of Greece Efthymios Christodoulou, 72, as new chairman and managing director of Hellenic Petroleum, and of former finance minister and European commissioner for the environment Yiannis Palaiokrassas, 70, in the post of chairman of the Public Power Corporation. Alexis Pilavios, former president of the Association of Institutional Investors, will head the Capital Market Commission. China visit The Knitwear and Clothier Firms Association (SEPEE) is organizing a business delegation to China from March 29 to April 2, in the framework of the EU-sponsored «Asia Interprise» program, which involves a total of 40 businesses from Italy, France, the UK and Greece. Participants will have contacts with similar Chinese firms and visit the China International Clothing Fair (CHIC 2004) in Beijing, which hosts 850 exhibitors. Natural gas J/V Pipeline Engineering GmbH – Intec yesterday signed a 949,700-euro contract to prepare a feasibility study for a Greek-Italian natural gas pipeline on behalf of the Public Gas Corporation (DEPA) and Italy’s Edison SpA. The two companies will pay half the cost, and the other half will be an EU subsidy. Social enterprises Euronem, the communication and information network, is organizing an international conference on «Social Entrepreneurship for the European Social Model» at the European Parliament’s bureau in Athens, on April 1 and 2.