No acceleration to realty transfers after going online

No acceleration to realty transfers after going online

A property transaction worth around 1 million euros in the northern suburbs of Athens was canceled at the last minute when the entrepreneur from abroad, in a rush to headquarter a new activity, withdrew seeing that the local tax office took more than 23 days just to inspect the transfer tax declarations and other documents. A similar process in Halkida, northeast of Athens, took two months.

Is it the lockdown and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic? Or is it that efforts to make the property transfer procedure digital have been left half-done, so that “the paper bureaucracy of the past has been replaced by the online one,” as notaries tell Kathimerini?

What is certain is that despite a recent initiative by the Independent Authority for Public Revenue to make property transfers electronic – a procedure closely linked to the growth of the real estate market – the desired results have yet to materialize.

Besides tax authorities, the procedure may get stuck at the social security fund that must provide the seller with clearance, or at the level of the municipal authority that may take weeks to issue a certificate of no outstanding debts regarding the Property Tax (TAP).

Greece has consistently found itself among the worst performing countries in the world for property transfers and recent changes introduced by the tax authorities do not appear to have improved the situation significantly.

According to Lena Kontogeorgou, vice-president at a notary association in the capital, the only substantial change introduced is that instead of taxpayers having to queue at the tax office to have their property transaction declaration and other documents checked – which used to take place on the spot with the transfer tax paid within three days – the documents are now sent to a general service of tax offices. The latter checks the declarations without the presence of the taxpayers and sends its approval electronically.

“In practical terms, though, this means a wait almost twice as long in most cases,” explains Kontogeorgou, as she recounts the €1 million transaction that was canceled.