by Christos Iliopoulos, Attorney at law, LL.M
It seems that the Greek governments of the last years have realized that it is in the interest of the Greek people and of the state that many foreign residents of Greek origin or even foreign people who happen to have business or real estate interests in Greece claim their inheritance shares over Greek properties.
A few years ago the inheritance property which was tax-exempted in Greece was only 20,000 euros. That meant that close relatives of the deceased, like the spouse and the children, did not pay any inheritance tax for the first 20,000 euros of property each of them inherited.
Later, the government increased that tax-exempted inheritance share to 80,000 euros for each of the children and to 300,000 euros for the surviving spouse, provided the he/she was married to the deceased for a duration of at least 5 years.
As if this was not a good enough incentive for many Greek ex-patriots and foreign residents to settle their inheritance shares in Greece and develop/sell/dispose off their real estate parcels, the current Greek government is making plans to completely abolish the inheritance tax for the largest number of relatives! If such a move takes place, there will be no excuse for anyone who is entitled to an inheritance in Greece not to locate the inherited property and sign the legal paperwork needed to obtain ownership over it. Once the inheritance tax is bypassed, any other inheritance cost/fee/expense is effectively insignificant compared to the value of the inherited property in most cases.
According to at least two Greek newspapers (Eleftheros Typos and E Hora), the Greek government is planning within the next four years to reduce to zero the inheritance tax for the surviving spouse, the children, the grandchildren, the parents, the grandparents, the siblings, the nephews and the nieces of the deceased.
If such a measure is implemented in Greece, most heirs will not pay any inheritance tax at all. The only heirs who will still have to pay a (relatively small) inheritance tax will be cousins and distant relatives of the inherited person, as well as heirs who are not related to the deceased.
We can’t know what is the government’s motive behind this inheritance tax abolishment. Apart from recognizing the fact that this move will benefit thousands of ex-patriots, it will also serve as the locomotive for the development of many land parcels and other immovable properties, which have remained out of the economic life for many years until today.
Abolishing the inheritance tax will also be an extra incentive for the Greek ex-patriots and their children (Greeks of second or third generation) to a) think about returning to Greece to spend their pension years, b) take up employment, or c) start a new business in Europe.
(Posting date 9 May 2009)
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