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Greece: New Greek Income Tax Code is supplemented by additional anti-avoidance rules

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Dionisios Stathis

On July 23 2013, a new Greek law (4172/2013) introduced a virtually new Greek Income Tax Code, which inevitably leads to significant changes in the former Greek Income Tax legislation (for both individuals and legal entities) as we knew it. It has not officially been confirmed yet if the provisions of the former Greek Income Tax Code (law 2238/1994) are automatically abolished after the introduction of said law, or if they continue to apply to the extent they do not run contrary to the new provisions. The new law aims at introducing simpler and more straightforward tax rules with a view to enhance clarity and predictability among taxpayers and effectively build trust and stability in the relationship between taxpayers and the tax authorities.

Interestingly enough, the new code is supplemented by a series of anti-avoidance provisions which were not present in the previous code. In particular, further to the transfer pricing, thin capitalisation and anti-tax haven provisions that already existed in the previous code, which are refined and/or amended to a certain extent in the new code, new controlled foreign companies (CFC) rules are introduced for the first time in Greek tax legislation.

Most importantly, the new code includes a more general anti-abuse rule which covers all kinds of transactions which are now embedded in the Greek Income Tax Code, such as mergers, divisions, contributions of assets, exchanges of shares and transfers of the registered seat of an SE (Societas Europaea – a European public limited liability company) or SCE (European Cooperative Society) to another EU member state.

Under this rule, all tax benefits enjoyed when performing such transactions may be lost if it is found that the principal objective or at least one of the principal objectives for effecting such transactions was merely tax avoidance and/or evasion and, thus, the corresponding transaction was not motivated by sound business reasons. Said rule effectively quotes the corresponding provision found in the Merger Directive (90/434/EEC), which was implemented into Greek law several years ago through a separate legal document (law 2578/1998).

Given the fact that the new law is still fairly recent, it is expected that additional guidance will be provided by the Greek Ministry of Finance in due course via relevant administrative circulars to shed additional light on any ambiguous points.

Dionisios Stathis (dionisios.stathis@gr.ey.com)

EY

Tel: +30 210 2886573

Website: www.ey.com

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