Third-party taxes

A European Court decision ruled that the extraordinary charges, valid since 1960, and levied on the capital of societe anonyme and limited-liability companies to fund the Lawyers’ Fund and the Lawyers’ Welfare Fund, are against EU law. This decision is of particular interest, as it brings to the fore the issue of these so-called taxes in favor of third parties. The EU has yet to raise this crucial issue, as it normally concerns professions with strong political power. But there is a clear trend in Europe to do away with these charges. In Greece, hundreds of taxes of this sort are still in existence. In essence, these taxes have encouraged the formation of strong guilds which have, in some way, built their own fiscal system. These taxes draw capital from society and channel it into the funds of higher professions. For decades, no one has dealt with what has become the State’s second budget. This was first noted under Alekos Papadopoulos’s command when he was finance minister. In 1995, Papadopoulos introduced a law mandating that finance ministers must present, along with the budget, a list with all taxes in favor of third parties. Papadopoulos said his intention was to trigger a public debate on the issue. Unfortunately, this never happened. Neither the political parties, nor the professional organizations responded to his call. The cloak of silence has gradually returned, leaving a situation of blatant social injustice basically undisturbed. Even though some of the taxes in favor of third parties may serve certain social needs, the vast majority are nothing more than another means to finance already prosperous professional groups, such as lawyers. These groups imposed the additional charges only because they wielded political power and were subject to preferential treatment by the State. This situation, apart from being socially unjust, also contains repercussions. It causes fiscal administration to become irrational and simultaneously conveys the message that he who has political power is entitled to economic handouts. The European Court decision is the first step in a process that will, sooner or later, lead to the abolition of all these taxes. For this reason, public debate on the matter is needed so as to avoid surprises and needless backlash. The responsibility lies with the government but with the opposition as well.

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