ECONOMY

Athens bourse ‘tax haven’

The Athens Stock Exchange (ASE) could rightfully claim the title of «tax haven» among European bourses; whereas it taxes only sales, the others tax dividends and profits as well – at rates of up to 56 percent. Apart from commission charges, investors in the ASE only have to pay a 0.15 percent tax on the value of the shares they sell; elsewhere in Europe, besides capital gains taxes, they are also charged various other fixed expenses, such as stamp duty. In Greece, dividends and capital gains from stocks are tax-free. The tax rate for domestic companies is being gradually reduced from 35 percent today to 25 percent for fiscal 2007. Dividends are distributed from the already taxed profits and the shareholder is, therefore, not considered liable to more tax. Capital gains are not taxed in Greece, irrespective of the nationality or place of residence of the seller – there is only the 0.15 percent transaction tax. In cases of death, donation or parental transfer, there is transfer tax. Greek Listing Certificates (ELPIS) enable the listing of foreign stocks on the ASE. Holders of ELPIS resident in Greece are only liable to tax on income derived from interest and dividends. By contrast, foreign residents, holders of ELPIS, are exempted from any tax. Mutual funds may be traded on the ASE but to date no bank has expressed interest in such transactions, although they, too, are completely exempt of tax. Dividends from Emerging Market Portfolio Investment Companies (EXAA) are exempt from taxes, as is the product of auctioning of their shares and the distributed assets if they are liquidated. Given the lack of taxes on dividends and capital gains, there are no tax incentives for holding stocks for long periods.