Few to get property tax breaks

Hotels, factories, churches and charities will be exempt from a new property tax, Economy Minister Evangelos Venizelos revealed on Thursday as opposition to the new measure mounts among the public, the political opposition and even within the ranks of the ruling Socialist party.

The minister also clarified Thursday that members of disadvantaged social groups, including the long-term unemployed, the disabled and large families, will be eligible for paying the lowest rate of 0.50 euros per square meter for any properties they own as long as they are not located in affluent districts where property values are above 3,000 euros per square meter.

Would-be beneficiaries will be obliged to get a statement confirming their eligibility from the Finance Ministry. They must then submit this to the Public Power Corporation (PPC), which will be including the charge on the electricity bills it issues.

According to sources, authorities intentionally pushed up the rates of the property tax – which is to range from 0.50 euros to 10 euros per sq.m. depending on location – as there were fears that a large number of people would not pay the new levy.

Sources say the government expects to draw 3 billion euros from the new tax. Meanwhile there are reports that the tax will be even higher next year as the government is planning to readjust property values set by the tax office (known as ?antikeimenikes axies?).

Venizelos said that churches would be exempt from the new property tax but not other properties owned by the Orthodox Church, one of the country?s biggest landowners.

Opposition parties continued to condemn the government?s tactics on Thursday, with Communist Party leader Aleka Papariga calling on citizens to refuse to pay any new taxes.

But there are objections to the new property levy even within the ranks of ruling PASOK, sources told Kathimerini.

?The mood is very dark,? a high-ranking government cadre said. But he said he expected the controversial new tax to be voted through Parliament as the officials expressing objections were relatively few and the sense of duty to keep reforms on track deeply instilled in the party.

PASOK veteran and former minister Vasso Papandreou told the economic affairs committee which she chairs in Parliament that she feared the new tax would burden low-income citizens whose financial situation has already been aggravated by months of austerity.

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