Cypriot taxman to pursue unpaid taxes from Church

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Cyprus tax authorities said yesterday they would expedite collections of unpaid dues to the state this year, including those it said were owed by the island’s powerful Greek Orthodox Church. Overall, the state is owed 490 million euros in unpaid taxes and the Church itself owes a «considerable» amount, Finance Minister Charilaos Stavrakis said. «It is well-known the Church has some business ventures and has considerable tax issues pending with the state,» Stavrakis said. Cyprus is eyeing a surplus equaling 0.5 percent of its gross domestic product this year, following a 3.3 percent surplus in 2007. In comments to Reuters earlier this week, Stavrakis said the 2008 target had become a challenge because of global financial turmoil and the steep costs of importing water to the drought-stricken island. Stavrakis would not disclose how much the Church owed in arrears. The Church has a wide range of business interests, including stakes in a bank, real estate and a brewery. «There is a political dimension to this issue. The Church is a very important institution in Cyprus, but we are going through an economic crisis and everyone should contribute… I believe that where the Church has tax obligations, they should be settled as soon as possible,» Stavrakis told journalists.