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Greeks want that the church also pays its taxes

02 April 2010 / 17:04:27  GRReporter
3220 reads

Victoria Mindova



After long debates and discussions at last the final version of the law for taxation of the church property was created. The Greek society however remained disappointed from the result. The spread financial crisis and the suspicious business with real estate properties between ranking politicians and representatives of the church in the past few years intensified the discontent of the Greek citizens and questioned the morality of the church and its meaning today.

“They put a figurative tax on the properties of the church, I expected them to take the subject more seriously,” says the journalist Alexandra Gitsi from the Greek information website Euro2Day. An economic reporter from a famous private Greek television says that when in the churches they start to give receipts for the candles then we can talk about accountancy, taxation and justice. “The role of the church as a support and help to the public life becomes more and more vague. We are not even talking about spiritual comfort or something like this. Simply in a period of economic crisis it is not possible only for the common citizens to pay the price. Especially when we all know that the Orthodox church in Greece owes enormous richness and property (most of all real estate properties) for millions of euro and on top of this it is favored by tax concessions,” says the 22 years old Stavros who has graduated “German philology” in the University of Athens and currently is currently serving his time as a soldier.

The young people in Greece are disappointed from the bargaining between the government and the head of the Orthodox church about the changes in the taxation of the church property. In the last six months it became clear that Greece is at the edge of a financial collapse. The representatives of PASOK made a promise in their electioneering campaign that they will introduce a new fair tax reform before which everybody will be equal – representatives of the public and of the church will be taxed according to their real income. The promises, however were not kept. “I go to church and I follow the Christian traditions,” says the 26 years old Elspi, owner of a small shop for lights in the center of Athens and continues: “however it definitely aggravates me when I see that the priest in the Kolonaki parish for example comes to celebrate the mass in one of the last models of Mercedes and the price of his cell phone is close to the monthly turnover in my shop in the good times (before the start of the crisis). Of course not all priests are like this, however I cannot understand why some of the God’s people use luxuries commodities like a businessmen from the public with the privileges of saints”. Elspi explains that only the price of the chandeliers in an average church in the capital exceeds 20 thousand euro depending on the model and the crystals, which are used for decoration. “This is money thrown out,” says the young girl.

The principle “Do not look at what I am doing, my child, listen to what I am saying” is known for years. The tax reform gave a reason to the society once again to pay attention to the problems in the church and its role in the life today. “We have to take into consideration the fact that in Greece there is no division yet of church and pubic government. Because of this I believe it is fair that the church should pay the same taxes as the public does”, is explicit the young Yota, who works as a teacher in Italian. This statement is particularly interesting in the context of the new addendum of the law for taxation of the expensive real estate property in the country. According to the last changes the tax rate for the expensive properties increases gradually from 0,1% until 1% for properties with tax base of 400 euro and above.

Here comes the second big problem which a journalist from a famous Greek newspaper talks about. “The main problem according to me is not by how much we will tax the property of the church,” he says, “but what does it actually own. There is no public accountancy which can present to the society how the church finances are floating. Transparency lacks in the financial transactions of the church with the public institutions. This actually is also the problem in the scandal involving the Vatopd monastery in Mount Athos. High ranked politicians have taken lands which are property of the church for ridiculous amounts of money and used them for commercial purposes without following the respective rules and procedures”.


Tags: Economy taxes church
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