Finance Ministry douses MPs’ hopes of major changes to property tax

Finance Ministry officials on Thursday sought to douse the hopes of dozens of coalition MPs for significant changes to a unified property tax that has been drafted by the government.

Following vehement objections by MPs of both New Democracy and PASOK to proposed provisions in the bill foreseeing higher taxes on farmers, Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras called on them to suggest alternative ways of raising the required revenue by Monday.

Greece must raise 3.5 billion euros from property tax next year, according to the draft budget. Under the current plan, 2.2 billion euros would come from taxing urban properties and the rest from levies on farmers.

A senior ministry official said there were only two ways of reducing the burden on farmers. One is to change the brackets for farmland taxes, reducing the levy for those with smaller plots but keeping the overall revenue target; the other is to reduce the overall target for revenues from farmers and shift it to the target for revenues from urban properties.

The prospect of more taxes on city properties prompted an angry response from homeowners but also associations representing lawyers, notaries and other professionals who say that farmers are undertaxed.

The ministry has insisted that the new unified property tax must be approved to replace the current tax on property, which was introduced as an emergency measure in 2011, and levied via electricity bills, before being extended.

Commenting on the response by government MPs to the draft property bill, the spokesman for leftist opposition SYRIZA, Panos Skourletis, described it as “fake.” “Let’s see what they do when they come to Parliament,” he said.