Confusion over local taxes for homeowners

The government appears to be in disarray over whether homeowners who have paid penalties for illegally altered part of their homes should be further taxes from their local authorities.

The confusion began on Wednesday when Deputy Interior Minister Giorgos Dolios issued a circular to municipalities that said they could collect local rates from homeowners who had since last year declared parts of their homes that were illegally altered.

Dolios’s missive caused further confusion by saying the local authorities could charge the taxes, which cover such things as street lighting and refuse collection, retroactively. He said that the municipalities could collect rates for the last five years from homeowners who had taken advantage of the government scheme.

The circular proved so controversial because when the government passed a law last year allowing homeowners to declare illegaly altered parts of their properties, known as imiypaithrioi (semi-open spaces) in Greek, it stated clearly that those coming forward would not be liable for any further penalties or taxes.

Speaking to Skai TV on Thursday, Dolios suggested that his circular had been misinterpreted and that municipalities had always had the right to include illegally altered areas in the total size of a property, which is used to calculate local rates.

The Environment Ministry added to the confusion by saying that its law still applies and has greater significance than an Interior Ministry circular, suggesting that homeowners should not pay any extra municipal taxes.

So far, some 500,000 people have come forward to declare their semi-open spaces and pay the relevant fine. The deadline for applications is the end of this month but it has been rumored the government will extend it for a second time because of holdups at town planning offices.

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