Greece Taxes Foreign-Flagged Ships for First Time Amid Crisis
Greece will tax merchant ships managed by companies based in the country and sailing under foreign flags for the first time ever as the nationís debt crisis spurs the government to raise revenue.
Amendments to a bill passed by lawmakers at the weekend imposed a so-called tonnage tax on the vessels, the Ministry of Finance in Athens said today by e-mail. The government aims to raise 80 million euros ($106 million) this year and 60 million euros in 2014 from the levy, the state-run Athens News Agency reported Jan. 9.
Greek shipowners control the largest portion of the world merchant fleet. The state is targeting an estimated 762 owners, who pay no tax on international earnings brought into the country under rules incorporated in the constitution since 1967. Lobbying by owners barred the imposition of any further taxes, Theodore Veniamis, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners, said by e-mail Jan. 14.
The tax applies only to tonnage of foreign-flagged vessels, rather than their earnings, Veniamis said. Ships controlled by Greek companies and flagged elsewhere came to 3,848 totaling 153.1 million gross tons as of March 2011, according to figures on the Hellenic Chamber of Shipping website. That compared with 2,014 vessels totaling 43.4 million tons sailing under Greeceís flag as of the end of the year. The data were the latest available.
Greek shipowners remitted more than $175 billion in untaxed earnings in 10 years until 2011, according to Bank of Greece figures cited in the unionís annual report.