Coalition comes together on tax bill amid opposition strife

The government on Monday made the final changes to a tax code that is expected to be voted on in Parliament by Thursday as part of Greece’s commitments to its foreign creditors with the lingering differences between coalition partners apparently bridged.

Meanwhile developments were less harmononious within Independent Greeks, a right-wing opposition party that is opposed to the terms of the country’s bailout, with several key lawmakers opposing an increasingly intransigent stance taken by leader Panos Kammenos.

The draft tax bill, which increases the burden for middle incomes and self-employed professionals while offering some relief for large families, was given some finishing touches yesterday ahead of its anticipated submission in Parliament. A copy of the draft was sent to the troika over the weekend and has reportedly received the creditors’ stamp of approval though some reservations were expressed on minor details, sources said.

The minor changes introduced by government officials relate to the levy paid by self-employed professionals, which is to increase to 650 euros from 500 euros. That increase will apply from the current financial year and not from next year as had been anticipated. Meanwhile, those who work for one employer but are not on the payroll will pay the standard 500-euro levy for this financial year but will be relieved of the levy from 2013 onward.

As the coalition appeared to edge closer to unity, the picture was less harmonious in one opposition party. Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos sparked a row within his party when he left a session of the parliamentary group following an attempt by prominent lawmakers to broach the issue of his refusal to collaborate with leftist SYRIZA and on the prospects of Greece leaving the eurozone.

When Kammenos sought to reconvene his MPs, in an apparent bid to limit damage, the secretary of his parliamentary group, Costas Markopoulos, refused to do so, replacing him with Panayiotis Melas. Kammenos subsequently got 16 of his 20 MPs to sign a document supporting the party line but the outlook for Independent Greeks was unclear as the four rebel MPs are among the party’s most prominent.

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