Greece: Mutual agreement procedure clarified
The Greek authorities have published guidance that will help taxpayers understand how to initiate the mutual agreement procedure (MAP) when disputes arise over double tax agreements (DTAs).
The Greek Independent Authority for Public Revenue (IAPR) has published Decision POL. 1049/2017 (the decision) that provides administrative guidance and stipulates the procedure to be followed by Greek taxpayers in order to initiate the MAP in the context of the DTAs that Greece has signed with other jurisdictions.
The decision, published on April 7, clarifies Article 63A of the Greek Code of Tax Procedures. This provision, which was enacted in November 2016, had incorporated into Greek tax law, the exact procedure to be followed by the taxpayers to initiate a MAP, pursuant to the respective DTAs that Greece had signed. In addition, the IAPR published on its new website a short guide presenting the MAP and responding to basic questions on its scope, such as which cases can be resolved through it, the formalities that the taxpayer should follow, etc.
The decision provides comprehensive guidance on all of the MAP stages, from the data that a taxpayer must submit with their application to the Greek tax authorities to initiate a MAP, to the stage of issuance of a mutual agreement decision and the deadline for the taxpayer to accept it or not. Furthermore, several relevant issues are clarified, such as the respective deadlines and statute of limitation, the possible conflicts between a MAP and any pending tax litigation in progress (lis pendens) before the local Greek courts, the secrecy and confidentiality of the mutual agreement proceedings, etc.
It should be mentioned that Greece has signed 57 DTAs with other jurisdictions. In all of these – apart from one (the Greek-UK DTA) – the relevant Article 25 of the OECD Model Tax Convention on MAP is included. However, even in the case of the Greek-UK DTA, it is still arguable whether a taxpayer can or cannot invoke the MAP, since the relevant DTA includes at least the relevant OECD Article 24 on non-discrimination and, thus, would remain lex imperfecta if there was no way for the taxpayer to enforce its application. In any case, perhaps the time has come for the Greek tax authorities to renegotiate a new DTA with the UK, especially in the context of the forthcoming Brexit and that it is the oldest DTA concluded by Greece that remains in force. It is also one of the two effective DTAs (together with the Greek-US DTA) that is not exactly based on the OECD Model.
In general, the enactment and clarification of the MAP by the IAPR is another positive step in the efforts of the Greek tax authorities to modernise the Greek tax legislative framework and try to close their communication gap with the taxpayers. While it is true that for various historical and sociological reasons, the relationship has always been stormy and not based on mutual trust, the newly founded Independent Authority has given clear signs that it intends to clear the clouds and establish processes that may create trust and collaboration with the taxpayers. This has already been made evident during the recent years with the successful enactment and practice of the APAs in transfer pricing. We hope that this will continue with the MAP for the benefit of both the taxpayers and the tax authorities.
Ilias Sakellariou (firstname.lastname@example.org), Marousi
Tel: +30 210 2886 000