NEWS

Property tax hike stalls

One day after the sudden announcement by Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis that taxable property values will rise by up to 60 percent in February, government officials yesterday signaled that the decision could be revised. Sources said that Prime Minister Costas Simitis expressed strong displeasure to Fotiadis’s immediate superior, Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. The PM is understood to have found incomprehensible the timing of the decision – which will apply as of February 1 – on the eve of the introduction of the euro and when the government is trying to clamp down on price hikes. On Thursday, Fotiadis announced that the «objective values» whereby the tax authorities work out taxes on property will increase between 5.6 percent (in the central Greek town of Larissa) and 60 percent (in Attica’s seaside resort of Nea Makri). Initially, he said this would apply as of today. In the evening, he changed the date to February. Yesterday, senior ministry officials said the matter should be settled to the taxpayers’ satisfaction before February. Sources said the government’s final decision on the matter would depend on a series of anticipated appeals by municipal authorities. Addressing a press conference yesterday, Fotiadis said municipal authorities who disagree with the decision should address themselves to the ministry’s appeals committee within two months of the measure’s implementation. But he had already rejected proposals by the same committee – whose function is purely consultative – for reductions in the higher taxable property values implemented in March 2001. Fotiadis explained this by saying that «the committee’s opinion was not convincing, as it failed to give comparative figures.» Opposition New Democracy’s shadow finance minister, Adam Regouzas, criticized the decision as «punitive» toward the municipalities that had appealed, and called on Simitis to scrap it. The national property owners’ union also attacked yesterday’s «sarcastic» comments by Fotiadis. «Two days ago, (Fotiadis) threw the committee’s decision in the dustbin,» a statement said. «What value, therefore, does his invitation to municipalities to appeal again to the same committee have?» Rhodes mayor Giorgos Yiannopoulos said he was in contact with other municipal officials to take the matter to the European Court.