1 Basic framework
1.1 Is there a single tax regime or is the regime multi-level (eg, federal, state, city)?
A single tax regime.
1.2 What taxes (and rates) apply to corporate entities which are tax resident in your jurisdiction?
Corporate tax is imposed on the total income of any company or legal entity (for credit institutions, see question 2.7). The applicable tax rate for 2019 is set at 28%. According to the law, this will be reduced in the following years as follows:
- 2020 - 27%
- 2021 - 26%; and
- 2022 onwards - 25%.
1.3 Is taxation based on revenue, profits, specific trade income, deemed profits or some other tax base?
Taxation is based on profits. Profits are calculated as total revenues less business expenses (including depreciation and amortisation, and provisions for bad debts). Any revenue derived by a company or legal entity is considered as stemming from business activities.
1.4 Is there a different treatment based on the nature of the taxable income (eg, gains on assets as opposed to trading income or dividend income)?
There is no difference based on the nature of the taxable income, as all income of legal entities is deemed to be business income.
1.5 Is the regime a worldwide or territorial regime, or a mixture?
Greek tax residents are subject to Greek income tax with respect to their worldwide income. Non-residents are subject to Greek income tax only with respect to their Greek-source income.
1.6 Can losses be utilised and/or carried forward for tax purposes, and must these all be intra-jurisdiction (ie, foreign losses cannot be utilised domestically and vice versa)?
Tax losses may be carried forward for five years.
Losses from a foreign permanent establishment may be neither utilised nor carried forward. By way of exception, losses arising from a permanent establishment located in another EU/European Economic Area state may be utilised against the relevant year's profits and/or carried forward for five years, as long as that country and Greece have entered into a double tax treaty that does not provide for an exemption in Greece of the permanent establishment's profits. However, according to the administrative guidelines, such losses may be offset against Greek profits only once the foreign permanent establishment closes and as long as it was not possible to utilise them in the country of the permanent establishment.
1.7 Is there a concept of beneficial ownership of taxable income or is it only the named or legal owner of the income that is taxed?
A distinction between legal and beneficial ownership does not exist under Greek law. Normally, the Greek tax authorities will look at the legal owner. However:
- the potential application of anti-avoidance rules is not precluded; and
- random references to the ‘beneficiary' of the income in the Income Tax Code could be used as a basis to turn against the beneficial owner.
1.8 Do the rates change depending on the income or balance-sheet size of the taxpayer?
No. The corporate tax rate is flat and applies irrespective of the balance-sheet size or the level of profits.
1.9 Are entities other than companies subject to corporate taxes (eg, partnerships or trusts)?
All kinds of companies and legal entities are subject to corporate tax, including corporations, partnerships, cooperatives, trusts, associations and so on.
2 Special regimes
2.1 What special regimes exist (eg, for fund entities, enterprise zones, free trade zones, investment in particular sectors such as oil and gas or other natural resources, shipping, insurance, securitisation, real estate or intellectual property)?
Investment vehicles: The following investment vehicles are exempt from income tax (with few exceptions) and instead are subject to the taxes described below:
- Real estate investment companies: These are subject to a special annual tax applied to the amount of their average investments plus cash, in current values, as stated in their six-monthly investment schedules. The rate is calculated as 10% of the European Central Bank intervention interest rate (‘reference rate') plus 1%. However, the rate of applicable tax cannot be less than 0.375% per semester (ie, 0.75% annually).
- Real estate mutual funds: These are subject to a special annual tax applied to the amount of their six-month average net assets. The rate is calculated as 10% of the reference rate plus 1%. However, the rate of applicable tax cannot be less than 0.375% per semester (ie, 0.75% annually).
- Undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities (UCITS): These are subject to a special annual tax applied to the amount of their six-month average net assets (or compartments). The rate is calculated as 10% of the European Central Bank main refinancing operations interest rate plus up to 1%, depending on the specific UCIT's (or its compartments') investment profile classification. However, the rate of applicable tax cannot be less than 0.025% to 0.375% per semester, depending on the specific UCIT's (or its compartments') investment profile classification.
- Portfolio investment companies: These are subject to a special annual tax applied to the amount of their six-month average investments plus cash. The rate is calculated as 10% of the reference rate plus 1%. However, the rate of applicable tax cannot be less than 0.375% per semester (ie, 0.75% annually).
Securitisation: A package of tax exemptions applies to securitisations performed under the relevant Greek law (Law 3156/2003), including an exemption for the transfer of receivables to or from the special purpose vehicle, and of relevant derivatives and credit agreements.
Shipping: Ships flying the Greek flag are subject to a tonnage tax. No further tax is imposed on the respective profits and dividends (also at shareholder level), including any gains from the sale of the ship. The same applies with respect to ships flying a foreign flag and managed by a ship management company established in Greece under the special regime set out in Article 25 of Law 27/1975 (see below), subject to the Greek income tax provisions that may apply to income arising from such ships in Greece, as well as subject to any applicable bilateral treaties (including double tax treaties) entered into by Greece. Also, a tax exemption applies to the transfer of shares in ship-owning companies (irrespective of flag), as well as to the transfer of holding companies that directly or indirectly hold ship-owing companies.
Under certain conditions, tonnage tax also applies with respect to ships flying an EU/European Economic Area flag and not captured by the exemption described above.
Ship management companies of Greek or foreign-flagged ships over 500 tons gross registered tonnage, with the exception of passenger coasters and vessels used exclusively within Greece, may apply for a licence in Greece (for either a Greek company or the office or branch of a foreign company) to establish and operate under the special regime set out in Article 25 of Law 27/1975. Companies subject to this regime are exempt from tax on the profits deriving from the licensed activity.
Exploration and production of hydrocarbons: The law regulating the exploration and production of hydrocarbons contains detailed provisions on the taxation of concessionaires and the calculation of taxable income. However, special provisions (which override those set out in the exploration and production law) are also set out in the specific concession (lease) agreements entered into between the Greek government and each concessionaire and ratified by law. In general, a fixed 25% tax (consisting of a 20% special income tax and a 5% regional tax) is imposed on the concessionaire's profits, which exhausts the tax liability of the concessionaire and its shareholders with respect to the relevant income. Tax exemptions are provided with respect to transfers of contractual rights, leases of property, loans and credit agreements.
2.2 Is relief available for corporate reorganisations or intra-group transfers of companies and other assets? Please include details of any participation regime.
The Greek tax law provides for the possibility of tax-neutral mergers, conversions, demergers and other reorganisations.
2.3 Can a taxpayer elect for alternative taxation regimes (eg, different ways to calculate the taxable base, such as revenue-based versus profits based or cash basis versus accounts basis)?
2.4 What are the rules for taxing corporates with different functional or reporting currency from that of the jurisdiction in which they are resident?
Local accounts should be kept in euros.
2.5 How are intangibles taxed?
Income from intangibles is treated as ordinary business income. Royalty payments to non-residents in principle attract a 20% withholding tax.
2.6 Are corporate-level deductions available for contributions to pensions?
Yes, such contributions are tax deductible.
2.7 Are taxpayers from different sectors (eg, banking) subject to different or additional taxes or surtaxes?
The corporate income tax rate applicable to credit institutions (as defined in Article 4.1(1) of EU Regulation 575/2013) is 29%.
2.8 Are there other surtaxes (eg, solidarity surtax, education tax, corporate net wealth tax, remittance tax)?
2.9 Are there any deemed deductions against corporate tax for equity?
3 Investment in capital assets
3.1 How is investment in capital assets treated – does tax treatment follow the accounts (eg, depreciation) or are there specific rules about the write-off for tax purposes of investment in capital assets?
Special rules and rates apply with respect to tax depreciation and amortisation.
3.2 Are there research and development credits or other tax incentives for investment?
The Income Tax Code provides for the following incentives:
- A super-deduction of 30% is recognised with respect to eligible scientific and technological research expenditure (including respective depreciation).
- A tax deferral (until distribution or capitalisation) is available for profits from the sale of goods manufactured by the legal entity itself using a patent developed by the legal entity and internationally recognised in the legal entity's name, with respect to the first three years of sales. The same deferral is available if the goods are manufactured in third-party installations, as well as for services consisting of the exploitation of an internationally recognised patent.
- In the case of the creation of new full-time jobs, a super-deduction of 50% is recognised for up to five years with respect to employer's social security contributions, provided that certain conditions are met.
- The Greek taxable income of legal entities that invest in the production of audiovisual works is reduced by an amount equal to 30% of the eligible expenditure incurred in Greece with respect to such audiovisual works.
The general investment incentive law provides – among other incentives – for tax deferral and a fixed corporate income tax rate (for 12 years) with respect to eligible investments.
3.3 Are inventories subject to special tax or valuation rules?
In general, tax treatment follows the accounts. The selected method of valuation must apply for at least five years.
3.4 Are derivatives subject to any specific tax rules?
Any income or gain from derivatives is treated as ordinary business income.
4 Cross-border treatment
4.1 On what basis are non-resident corporate entities subject to tax in your jurisdiction?
Non-resident corporations and legal entities are taxed in Greece on their Greek-source income only. Greek-source income includes income from business activities carried out via a Greek permanent establishment, income from Greek immovable property and dividends, interest and royalties. For non-resident legal entities, capital gains from the sale of shares in a Greek legal entity are not considered as Greek-source income, unless derived by a Greek permanent establishment.
4.2 What withholding or excise taxes apply to payments by corporate taxpayers to non-residents?
Subject to any applicable double tax treaty, payments by corporate taxpayers to non-residents attract withholding tax at the following rates.
Dividends: Dividend payments are taxed at a rate of 10%. However, the rate is zero for dividends paid to eligible entities (under Annex I, Part A of Directive 2011/96/EU), provided that the shareholder entity:
- holds at least 10% for at least 24 months in the distributing entity;
- is an EU tax resident and is not considered a resident of a non-EU country based on the relevant double tax treaty; and
- is subject to one of the taxes listed in Annex I, Part B of Directive 2011/96/EU, without the possibility of an option or exemption.
Interest and royalties: Interest payments are taxed at a rate of 15%, while royalty payments are taxed at a rate of 20%. However, the rate is zero for interest or royalties paid to eligible entities (under the Annex to Directive 2003/49/EU), provided that:
- the beneficiary has held directly at least 25% of the share capital or voting rights of the paying entity for at least 24 months;
- the paying entity has held directly at least 25% of the share capital of the beneficiary for at least 24 months; or
- another legal entity has held directly at least 25% of the share capital of both the paying entity and the beneficiary for at least 24 months; and
- the beneficiary:
- is an EU tax resident and is not considered a resident of a non-EU country on the basis of the relevant double tax treaty; and
- is subject to one of the taxes listed in Article 3 of Directive 2003/49/EU, without the possibility of an option or exemption.
Technical, management, consulting and similar services rendered by the local permanent establishment of a company not established in a EU/EEA country: 20%
4.3 Do double or multilateral tax treaties override domestic tax treatments?
4.4 In the absence of treaties, is there unilateral relief or credits for foreign taxes?
A foreign tax credit is available under the domestic legislation. The foreign tax credit cannot exceed the amount of the corresponding Greek tax. In the case of dividends received from an EU company where the participation exemption conditions are not met (see question 4.2), an underlying tax credit is also granted.
4.5 Do inbound corporate entities obtain a step-up in asset basis for tax purposes?
4.6 Are there exit taxes (for disposed-of assets or companies changing residence)?
The Greek law does not provide for an exit tax. However, transfer of functions rules apply, which provide for transfer pricing adjustments in case of intra-group restructurings involving functions, assets, risks, opportunities, intangibles and/or goodwill, where any transfer or licensing thereof was not made at an arm's-length price.
5.1 Are there anti-avoidance rules applicable to corporate taxpayers – if so, are these case law (jurisprudence) or statutory, or both?
Anti-avoidance rules are set out in the Greek tax law.
5.2 What are the main ‘general purpose' anti-avoidance rules or regimes, based on either statute or cases?
The Greek Code of Tax Procedure has introduced into local law the General Anti-abuse Rule set out in Article 6 of the EU Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive 2016/1164/EU. According to the law, for the purposes of calculating tax liabilities, the tax administration does not take into account any arrangements which, having been put into place for the main purpose (or a main purpose) of obtaining a tax advantage that defeats the object or purpose of the applicable tax law, are not genuine, having regard to all relevant facts and circumstances. Arrangements shall be regarded as not genuine to the extent that they are not put into place for valid commercial reasons which reflect economic reality.
5.3 What are the major anti-avoidance tax rules (eg, controlled foreign companies, transfer pricing (including thin capitalisation), anti-hybrid rules, limitations on losses or interest deductions)?
Controlled foreign companies: The provisions of the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive on controlled foreign companies have been implemented in Greek law. If a foreign legal entity is more than 50% controlled (voting rights/capital/profits) by a Greek resident and the corporate income tax paid on its profits is less than 50% of the Greek corporate income tax that would have been payable had it been a Greek tax resident, and more than 30% of its pre-tax profits falls under certain specific categories (mostly passive), any non-distributed income falling under those categories is proportionately attributable to the controlling Greek resident and taxable as business income. Foreign permanent establishments may also be captured. There is an exception for EU/European Economic Area-established entities carrying on substantive activities.
Thin capitalisation: The provisions of the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive on interest limitation have been implemented in Greek law. ‘Exceeding borrowing costs' (as defined) are deductible in the tax period in which they are incurred up to 30% of the taxpayer's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (as defined). By derogation from this rule, taxpayers may deduct exceeding borrowing costs up to €3 million. Non-deductible exceeding borrowing costs may be carried forward without limitation. The interest limitation rule does not apply to financial undertakings (as defined).
Limitation on interest deduction: Interest on loans (other than bank loans, interbank loans, corporate bonds and bonds issued by credit cooperatives operating as credit institutions) is not tax deductible to the extent that it exceeds the interest rate on credit lines to non-financial corporations applicable at the time the loan is granted, as per the Bank of Greece's Bulletin of Conjunctural Indicators.
Transfer pricing: Related-party transactions should comply with the arm's-length principle. Greek legal entities and permanent establishments must maintain transfer pricing documentation subject to a de minimis threshold (see question 5.5).
Anti-hybrid: The exemption of dividends received by local companies based on the participation exemption rules (Directive 2011/96/EU) does not apply to the extent that such dividends are a tax-deductible item for the subsidiary.
The tax exemption of inbound dividends from EU subsidiaries and the exemption from withholding tax on outbound dividends paid to EU parent entities (see question 4.2) are not available for arrangements which have been put in place for the main purpose (or a main purpose) of obtaining a tax advantage that defeats the object or purpose of the applicable tax law and are not genuine having regard to all relevant facts and circumstances. Arrangements shall be regarded as non-genuine to the extent that they are not put into place for valid commercial reasons which reflect economic reality.
Limitation on losses: If there is a change to the direct or indirect participation or the voting rights in a legal entity in excess of 33%, and in the same or the next fiscal year there is a change in the entity's activities amounting to more than 50% of its turnover compared to the previous fiscal year, then the provisions relating to the carry forward of tax losses do not apply.
5.4 Is a ruling process available for specific corporate tax issues or desired domestic or cross-border tax treatments?
As a rule, Greek law does not provide for binding rulings. However, taxpayers may seek the tax administration's non-binding views in writing on any tax issue; normally, tax auditors will respect such non-binding replies.
5.5 Is there a transfer pricing regime?
Greek legal entities and permanent establishments that engage in related-party transactions should comply with the arm's-length principle. The law refers to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development general principles and guidelines on the interpretation and application of the arm's-length principle. Legal entities and individuals are considered to be related parties where there is a direct or indirect participation of at least 33% in share capital, voting rights or profits, or where there is direct or indirect material managerial dependence or control or decisive influence.
Greek legal entities and permanent establishments are obliged to prepare transfer pricing documentation if the total value of the relevant transactions (including the transfer of functions) exceeds:
- €100,000 per tax year if the turnover of the taxpayer is €5 million or less; or
- €200,000 per tax year if the turnover of the taxpayer is more than €5 million.
In addition, country-by-country reporting rules apply (see question 6.3).
The law provides for the possibility to obtain an advance pricing arrangement.
5.6 Are there statutory limitation periods?
Tax liabilities are subject to a limitation period of five years. More specifically, the tax authorities may issue a tax assessment within five years of the end of the year within which a tax return ought to be submitted.
This limitation period can be extended in the following cases:
- If the taxpayer submits an initial or amended tax return within the fifth year of the initial limitation period, then the limitation period is extended for one year from the expiry of the initial five-year period.
- If the tax authorities request information from a foreign country, the limitation period is extended for as long as is required to receive this information plus one year, beginning from receipt of the information by the tax authorities.
- If the taxpayer brings a legal action against a tax assessment, especially regarding the disputed matter, the limitation period is extended for one year following the issue of the respective ruling.
Especially in case of tax evasion, the limitation period is 20 years.
6.1 What are the deadlines for filing company tax returns and paying the relevant tax?
Corporate tax returns should be submitted by the last business day of the sixth month following the end of the fiscal year.
The tax is payable in up to six equal monthly instalments, the first of which should be paid by the last business day of the month following that in which the filing is due; the remaining five instalments are payable by the last business day of the following five months, provided that the tax will be fully paid within the same tax year.
In addition, an advance payment regarding the following year's tax liability is payable in an amount equal to the tax due for the year to which the return relates.
6.2 What penalties exist for non-compliance, at corporate and executive level?
Corporate level: The assessment of additional corporate tax as a result of filing a corporate tax return which is found to be inaccurate upon a tax audit triggers the following penalties:
- If the excess tax is between 5% and 20% of the tax declared, the penalty is 10% of the excess tax.
- If the excess tax is more than 20% and up to 50% of the tax declared, the penalty is 25% of the excess tax.
- If the excess tax is more than 50% of the tax declared, the penalty is 50% of the excess tax.
Upon a tax audit, the assessment with failure to file a corporate tax return triggers a penalty equal to 50% of the tax avoided.
A failure to file a withholding tax return or filing of an inaccurate withholding tax return identified in a tax audit triggers a penalty equal to 50% of the amount of the unpaid tax.
In all of the above cases, as well as in case of overdue payment of taxes, interest is assessed (the current rate is 0.73% per month).
The law also provides for minor penalties with respect to various trivial violations.
Executive level: Chairmen, managers, administrators, managing and executive directors and liquidators of legal entities who are in office at the time of dissolution or merger are jointly liable for any taxes (including penalties and interest) owed by the legal entity.
The same persons are jointly liable for withholding taxes and value added tax during the legal entity's operation, as follows:
- if the tax has been withheld or accounted for, all persons who held one of the above positions from the deadline for payment of the relevant tax return onwards; and
- if no tax has been withheld or accounted for, all persons who held one of the above positions at the time when the tax ought to have been withheld/accounted for.
6.3 Is there a regime for reporting information at an international or other supranational level (eg, country-by-country reporting)?
Greece is a party to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (Common Reporting Standard) and has also implemented in local law Directives 2011/16/EU and 2014/107/EU.
Greece is a party to the OECD's Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Exchange of Country by Country Reports and has also implemented in local law Directive 2016/881/EU.
Greece has signed with the United States and has ratified by law a bilateral agreement (Model 1 Inter-governmental Agreement) to provide for implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.
7.1 Is tax consolidation permitted, on either a tax liability or payment basis, or both?
Tax consolidation is not permitted in Greece.
8 Indirect taxes
8.1 What indirect taxes (eg, goods or service tax, consumption tax, broadcasting tax, value added tax, excise tax) could a corporate taxpayer be exposed to?
Value added tax (VAT): Directive 2006/112/EC has been introduced into Greek law. As a rule, VAT is levied on any supply of goods or services made for consideration by any person engaging independently in economic activities. The law provides for various exemptions and zero-rated transactions. The standard VAT rate is set at 24%, while reduced rates of 13% and 6% apply to the supply of certain goods or services.
Stamp duty: Stamp duty (at the rates of 3.6%, 2.4% and 1.2%) is levied on certain transactions and/or documents which fall outside the scope of VAT. The most common cases where stamp duty applies are loans (excluding bonds and bank loans) and non-residential property rentals.
Capital duty: Capital duty of 1% is charged on any capital increase during the lifetime of a company. However, no capital duty is charged on incorporation. Especially in the case of sociétés anonymes, a special levy of 0.1% is also due with respect to any capital contribution, either on incorporation or on any subsequent capital increase.
Excise duties: Excise duties apply to alcohol and alcoholic beverages, coffee, manufactured tobacco, energy products and electricity.
Real estate transfer tax: The transfer of real property falling outside the scope of VAT attracts real estate transfer tax at 3% of the property's value.
Tax on insurance premiums: Insurance premiums are subject to tax at the following rates:
- fire insurance 20%;
- life insurance 4%; and
- other insurance 15%.
Television advertisements: Television advertisements are subject to a 5% tax calculated on the advertisement's value.
8.2 Are transfer or other taxes due in relation to the transfer of interests in corporate entities?
The sale of listed shares attracts a 0.2% transfer tax.
9 Trends and predictions
9.1 How would you describe the current tax landscape and prevailing trends in your jurisdiction? Are any new developments anticipated in the next 12 months, including any proposed legislative reforms?
During the global financial crisis, Greece entered into recession and its fiscal policies were tightened. In recent years, thanks to the implementation of growth-restructuring policies, the economy has returned to growth and a budgetary surplus has been achieved. In response to these events, the overall tax burden has begun to be gradually reduced. The Income Tax Code has already been amended to provide for the gradual decrease of the corporate income tax rate from 29% (for 2018) to 25% (for 2022 onwards). Also, beginning from 2019, the taxation of dividends has been reduced from 15% to 10%. In the following 12 months, further relaxation is anticipated.
10 Tips and traps
10.1 What are your top tips for navigating the tax regime and what potential sticking points would you highlight?
In the past decade, significant developments at international level have led to increased regulation of tax reporting (eg, Common Reporting Standard, automatic exchange of information, country-by-country reporting, Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). This trend is expected to continue (eg, the EU DAC6 Directive). These developments have increased the need for detailed upfront planning in order to minimise risk.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.