Annual levy on foreign currency from shipping industry
The Ministry of Finances is expecting to generate 62 million euros from imposing an annual levy on the total income in foreign currency by businesses dealing in the operation, chartering, insurance, damage settlement, sale, construction, insurance or chartering of ships over 500 GRT, under Greek or foreign flags.
The levy will vary between 6% and 10% and excludes passenger and commercial ships on domestic lines. The Scientific Service of Parliament has demanded improvements in the wording of the legislation, as it has located a series of problems.
Management firms are excluded from the levy, which are an important percentage of companies based in Greece. The distinction between managing and operating or chartering ships is often difficult. There are also no legal provisions should a company manage and operate a ship.
The levy is imposed on the total sum of foreign currency. However expenses and payments in Greece can be covered by importing euros. This distinction indicates preferential treatment of businesses in Greece covering their costs in euros, instead of foreign currency.
The wording of the proposed measure suggests the levy concerns non-Greek firms based in Greece. This contradicts the freedom of establishment, as well as any other agreements about non-preferential treatment which the Greek state has singed for.
Using the total annual amount of imported foreign currency as a means of determining the levy is not a reliable indication of a tax-paying ability, since the funds are not just used to cover costs, but also towards payment to third parties. The levy might also clash with the freedom of fund flow.
By accepting that the total annual amount of imported foreign currency as an indication of income or profits, the levy with conversely progressive rates, create problems of compatibility with the principle of tax-paying ability.