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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cadastral Registration Under Way In Greece!

I have written before about the project of cadastral registration which is allegedly under way. Like with so many reform intentions in Greece, I have begun to make it a habit to say: "I believe it when I see it!"

Well, I am beginning to believe that cadastral registration may indeed be under way!

My wife's father, a farmer, had owned several small pieces of land in the region near Kavala. Not really of any significant material value, according to my wife. When her father died about 17 years ago, he had left no testament. My wife told her brother and sister that, whatever there was, they could have it. She even put something in writing to that effect, she recalls.

Thus, in the absence of a testament, the land would have legally gone to my wife, her mother and her brother and sister, in equal amounts according to Greek law, I am told, and my wife thought that her share had been passed on to the others. A few years later, my wife's mother died as well and she did not leave a testament, either. Thus, the land should have moved in equal one-thirds to my wife, her brother and sister. Again, my wife told them they could have it. And that, she thought, was the end of it.

No, it wasn't the end. Instead, it came back to life a few weeks ago, 17 years after my wife's father had died. In the course of compiling the registry, it turned out that my wife had never formally accepted her inheritance. Not having accepted it, she could not pass it on to her brother and sister, either.

A bureaucratic nightmare came as a result. On one hand, my wife's relatives near Kavala had to compile all sorts of papers to document what the properties were, who had owned them and who the legal heirs had been. Picture this: here we are talking about 7 or 8 small fields where there had never been any formal definition of borders, etc.

But now to my wife, a citizen of Austria for 35 years who had left Greece almost 50 years ago and who had never worked or earned income in Greece. She was told by her relatives to go to the tax office to get a number called "kleidarithmos", and then all hell broke loose.

My wife was registered with the tax office and she has had a Greek tax number ever since we rented an apartment in Thessaloniki and bought a car 6 years ago. She had never filed a Greek tax return because we couldn't have dreamed of reasons why she should file one: we typically spend only 3-4 months a year in Greece and my wife has no income to declare, neither in Austria nor in Greece.

Well, in the eyes of the tax office, that immediately made my wife a most suspicious invidual and potential tax cheater. From their standpoint, she was a Greek living in Greece and hiding a lot of income and wealth abroad, and the time had come for the authorities to go after all that income and wealth to tax it. My wife who has a mind for many good things but no mind at all for bureaucratic procedures was near nervous breakdown after the first grilling.

A tax consultant then helped us out. There were 6 forms which had to be filled out for the Greek tax office and 3 forms which will have to be filled out by Austrian authorities. The point of all of them is to establish that my wife is a resident and tax payer of Austria even though she doesn't pay any taxes in Austria for lack of income. Under the double taxation treaty between Greece and Austria, it is then assured that my wife won't have to pay taxes on income in Greece which income she does not even have in Austria. Make sense?

When all is said and done, my wife will be in a position to assume official ownership of her inheritance and then she will be able to pass on to her brother and sister that inheritance.

At the end of this exercise, she will not own property in Greece which she never knew that she owned and she will not pay taxes on income in Greece which income she doesn't have in Greece, in Austria or anywhere else.

But the good news is: the fields which her father had owned will finally be fully and 100% correctly registered in the Greek cadastry. And the tax consultant tells us that my wife will have to, from now on, make an annual statement to Greek tax authorities about her tax situation. Any more questions?

PS: I am now waiting for the Greek tax authorities to find out that I, too, spend 3-4 months in Greece and that I, too, am technically subject to Greek tax laws. Well, what's another 9 forms, anyway!

15 comments:

  1. According to the Cadastre's website, there is operative Cadastre in 340 areas in Greece.
    http://www.ktimatologio.gr/sites/en/operativecadastre/Pages/ynlvCuRyemcgg0qZ.aspx

    Moreover, it is written in the website that at the moment 107 areas are under Cadastral Survey.
    http://www.ktimatologio.gr/sites/en/cadastralsurvey/Pages/kuUtbigTQbkVTDd_EN.aspx

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  2. Mr. Kastner,

    I can understand you completely. I don't know what do, laugh or cry. This land registry issue and inheritance issue in Greece is simply a nightmare.

    Your wife's case is of many is sad and tiresome but quite simpler than most.

    Imagine 13 large pieces of properties in one area. Roughly 120 acres in total. The old couple (my grand aunt and grand uncle) die some 20 years ago and leave a will to the respective siblings and one nephew. Of who each have 3 and 2 children respectively. They all except the inheritance where taxes are paid. The nephew as because he is not 1st descendant has to pay a higher tax inheritance. 50,000 euro some 7-8 years ago. He lives in the USA. He has not and will not pay it. Plus surcharges and penalties the sum should be somewhre over 75,000 euro now. Now because he has not paid the taxes the other 2 parties children (total of 5 people can not move to claim or split the pieces of land of inheritance) 120 acres of very good agricultural realastate. BTW the 5 people aside from the nephew have a children as well and i am one of them. Total person now wanting this land which is stuck = 11.

    Because one person claimed the inheritance but does not pay the taxes the inheritance can not be split by the others. Tell me if this is Greek bs or what.

    I heard there is a law coming as to help settle such cases but as you said, i will believe it when i see it. Meanwhile those 5 people ( my parents inclusive) pay property taxes annually for something they can not formally use. My father has willed His % of the properties to me, but told me to carefully consider if i will accept the inheritance when the time comes.

    The above story is needle in the hay stack of stories in Greece. Imagine the unused property we have which can help contribute to our economy.

    Sincerely,
    V

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  3. Well, from now on you will be contributing to the Greek tax heist as your land will be taxed. The fact that it is probably of no value and yields no income is immaterial. My uncle has a couple of acres on top of a mountain that attract ENFIA

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    1. "The fact that it is probably of no value and yields no income is immaterial."

      It shouldn't be. Can't you help your uncle Ioannis?

      Tax law over here is highly complicated, but I cannot imagine that if property is neither used for housing or real estate nor for agriculture or forestry it can be subject to property tax (Grundsteuer over here). Land ownership, I understand in connection with its use is taxed lower over here. Obviously it has be.

      If I were your uncle, I would fight in that case.

      LeaNder

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    2. @ LeaNder
      You are wrong; that much I have learned about Greek taxes so far.

      Income taxes in most other countries are paid on income earned. In Greece, they not only look at the income side but also at the expense side. And for sure, on the asset side. So if you have certain assets, the tax authorities impute that you have income, regardless whether you have income or not. The same goes for the place you own and live in.

      One of my friends has been unemployed for several years now and has zero income (at least zero official income). Yet, he has to pay income taxes. Why? Because he owns the flat they live in and he owns a car. So he is imputed to have income. Explain this to your friends in Germany!

      BTW, the real estate tax is due regardless what you do with the real estate. That's the case in Greece as is the case in Germany with Grundsteuer. Only that Greek real estate taxes are really property taxes and very high compared to Germany (depending on the assessed value of the real estate).

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  4. Klaus,

    your story is not that unusual with all those diaspora Greeks, who after decades abroad happen to inherit anything from parents or relatives.

    Please note that should your wife retain any real estate in Greece, she will be assessed for the annual ENFIA, the real estate tax, aka the "Χαρατσι" of the Ottoman Turks.

    Regards
    Κ

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  5. But the good news is: the fields which her father had owned will finally be fully and 100% correctly registered in the Greek cadastry. And the tax consultant tells us that my wife will have to, from now on, make an annual statement to Greek tax authorities about her tax situation. Any more questions?

    Yes, maybe? No way out for your wife, beyond her now acknowledged ownership? What taxes would her initial intention of simply transfering her inheritance to her siblings trigger in whatever options available, starting with a gift. Any other legal tools available?

    PS: I am now waiting for the Greek tax authorities to find out that I, too, spend 3-4 months in Greece and that I, too, am technically subject to Greek tax laws. Well, what's another 9 forms, anyway!"

    I assume that Europe can protect you. I checked, 3-4 month would be way below German legal limits of necessary presence in Greece. If you rent your flat beyond your presence taxing that income in Greece would make sense.

    Now concerning the intricacies of Doppelbesteuerung, and EU laws, maybe you should contact Iannos where the best legal strategy lies, maybe including the problem of your wife and her siblings. I am not only an economical nitwit but also a legal one. ;)

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    1. Thanks for your suggestions. Normally in Europe, it is the principal residence, the famous "center of one's life" which determines the country where income must be taxed, and normally that requires a stay in that country of at least 183 days.

      Real estate is different because that gets taxed in the country where it is, be that real estate tax or income from renting it.

      In short, what the Greek authorities are doing to my wife is quite correct: is she owns real estate in Greece, she has to pay Greek taxes on it. However, since Greece is only a secondary residence, she would have to pay income taxes only on the income which she earns in Greece, of which there is none. Double-taxation treaties always make sure that one income is not taxed twice; i. e. if my wife had income in Greece and paid income taxes on it, she would not have to pay income taxes on it in Austria. She would, however, have to report it in Austria because that would be part of her "world-wide income" and the latter determines the tax bracket.

      In theory, I, too, am subject to Greek income taxes because I reside there during part of the year but since it is my secondary residence, I would only be taxable on income earned in Greece, of which there is none.

      So this is all the normal way. We'll see if the normal way also applies to Greece...


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    2. Loverly problem though. What is the difference between a resident and an inhabitant. Nothing to do with nationality.

      Can you be an Resident of Monaco and an inhabitant of Greece? I guess both countries can tax you on the income you earn and only a tax treaty between the two can stop them of doing so.

      Income taxes is usually due in the country it is earned. But what tax pays a tennisplayer that resides in Monaco, inhabits most of the time in Greece and wins a tournament in Australia.

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  6. Recently on Dutch TV an item on American citizens, being resident in Holland and paying Dutch income tax.

    However, recently there is a American tax law that requires American citizen (where ever they live) to declare their income (where ever it is earned) to the IRS.

    The person involved lives in Holland from his childhood, was unaware of this law and failed declare his Dutch income (on which he payed Dutch taxes) to the IRS

    Apparently there is tax agreement between the Dutch and Americans that requires the Dutch to report on incomes earned by American citizens (not companies of course, Holland is a heaven for tax dodging companies from all over the world).

    Anyway the person involved faced a tax charge from the IRS of about $ 30.000,- and can no longer visit his terminally ill mother in New York for the fear of being arrested at entering the USA.

    I assume things will be sorted out eventually but there you have it.

    Tax authorities all over the world seem to be insane in cases there is little or no tax to be collected but take a blind eye if companies are involved.

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    1. The USA are a bit of an exception because they indeed require American citizens to file a US tax return wherever they live. However, I doubt that US citizens who live outside the USA and who have all their income and assets outside the US have to pay US taxes.

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  7. The existing land registration in Greece is described at .http://www.elra.eu/2015/01/the-present-landscape-of-land-registration-in-greec/. It illustrates that Greece has to fulfill two projects. Improve the existing Land registry and implement a registration of taxes of landowners. Most EU Member States have different registrations for these purposes with different legal meaning. A Land register (civil law) provides decisive evidence about titles to plots of land. A Cadastre (public law) provides names of the presumed landowners who have to pay property taxes. In Land Registries the boundaries of plots of land are described generally. In Cadastres the boundaries are surveyed exactly because this information is needed to calculate the number of acres and determine the value of the plot of land. However in a boundary dispute the court can decide that the location of the civil law boundary differs from the Cadastre boundary. Also in most EU Member States, pursuant to existing civil law on property rights, a boundary of a plot of land can change after adverse possession. Of course landowner has the right to claim that an adverse possessor leaves his land, but when he does not do so he loses that right after a certain period because of prescription. In that case the possessor acquires the property rights. The interference of the existing property rights was considered human-rights compliant by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in the case J.A. Pye (Oxford) Ltd and Another v United Kingdom (2007) 46 EHRR 1083. The limited legal meaning of a Cadastre opens the possibility to use a simple process. The registration of taxes payers can be based on presumptions of ownership and for establishing the value of the land aerial imageries can be used. It allows a taxes inspector to sent provisional tax assessments. A receiver will raise objections when he uses the land because of rent or lease. But when the prescription period of adverse possession is still underway he will prefer to "let the sleeping dogs lie" and pay the taxes.
    Unfortunately Greek law demands that both the perfecting of the land register and the introduction of a taxes registration takes place at the same time. This causes enormous delay because for the perfecting of the registration of property rights (fundamental human rights) asks for a more careful process then is needed for implementing a Cadastre. For the perfecting of the Land register all landowners have to present evidence of their property rights and of the location of boundaries. The Cadastre annex Land register verifies whether the claims are in accordance with previous registration and whether neighbors have objections against the boundaries. This causes many boundary disputes that have to be solved by the courts and cause delay. However this does not have to delay to involve the collecting of taxes, In this case delay can be prevented by changing the law in so far that the two projects are completed at different times. A first step could be introducing a Cadastre of presumed owners. This approach is in accordance with the “Fit-For-Purpose” method that recently advocated by Danish professor Stig Enemark at a recent congress organized by the World bank (http://vbn.aau.dk/files/209515491/Washington_2015._WB_Conf._Paper._ID_323._Enemark.pdf). It means that perfecting of the Land registry can no longer be used as an alibi to postpone the collecting of property taxes.

    Wim Louwman
    Former President of the European Land Registry Association

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    1. Thank you for your most qualitative contribution! It reminded me of a couple of things which I learned about Austrian land registry in the last year or so and I will share them with you.

      Austria allegedly has one of the best land registries ("Grundbuch") in Europe. At least the Austrian authorities tell me that. There is not a square meter of Austrian land which is not registered. And all of Austria is zoned which zones get updated every few years.

      After 40 years in banking, I thought I knew something about "Grundbuch" (land registry). After all, I had made loans against properties shown in the "Grundbuch". The "Grundbuch" shows the plots with all details like size, borders, border points and the name of the owner. I was raised and trained in banking to believe that the "Grundbuch" was untouchable and definitive. Put differently, I had never heard of such a thing called the "Grenzkataster" (border cadastre).

      Last year, my neighbor informed me that both of us had been disowned by the National Forestry. I told him that he should read up on the what the "Grundbuch" means. We both own a stretch of land along the lake about 4 meters wide. The ony thing is that the land is under water and there is no way that one will ever get permission to build anything there; not even one square meter. Thus, it has no material value, really. The stretch is recorded in the "Grundbuch" with borders and with size and my family has paid property taxes ("Grundsteuer") on it ever since history was recorded.

      Now my neighbor, who had bought the property from my cousin a few years ago, discoverd that the borders of the "Grundbuch" had never been entered into the border cadastre ("Grenzkataster") and that only borders in the "Grenzkataster" are untouchable and irreversible.

      My neighbor requested the National Forestry to agree to entering the "Grundbuch" borders into the "Grenzkataster" and they told him to go fly a kite. They referred to a Federal Law of 1931 which stipulated that the National Forestry owns all "lake land" which is under the water. And the Federal Law supersedes the "Grundbuch" law. How should he have known that? Easy, they told him. He should have looked up the Federal Law of 1931 before buying the property from my cousin...

      My neighbor is now suing the National Forestry and plans to go all the way to the Supreme Court and, while he is at it, he is suing my cousin for potentially selling him a property which did not belong to her. It is getting messy!

      To my great shock, everyone I have talked to told me that the National Forestry's opinion is correct. I asked how I could be disowned without a proper process and they tell me that I was not disowned because my family never owned that land. I would have to prove with photographs that 40 years prior to the Federal Law (i. e. in 1891!) that land had not been under water. I don't even know whether they had photographs back in 1891! I asked about the taxes my family has paid on that property which allegedly never belonged to us and I got a blank scare.

      So it will be interesting how this will play out but it reminds me of your point that there is private and public law and that the latter supersedes the former.

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  8. I thought it might be of interest how my wife's nephew, a civil engineer who is trying to resolve this situation for his family, explained it to me:

    "You'll have to excuse my English and I'll try to explain the facts to you. In summer, about June, my parents asked me to declare all the property mostly lands as we have to the Greek state its called ktimatologio or a new system of land registry. So i asked from my parents to give me copies of all titles to property owned by the family and they provided me more or less of half of them. So i began to search about the missing titles and i have discovered that grandfather christos after his death in 1998 left in his will only the house in nikisiani and one landfield "valtes" to my father and all the rest landfields left them equally to his children my father, Lola and chrisoula. After that in 2001 when my father, Lola and chrisoula went to the notary public to accept the inheritance, they have accepted only the half of the landfields that grandfather christos possessed and there begun the problem. So in one hand they don't have titles for the rest of the landfields with the risk to lose them by the Greek state if they do not declare them to ktimatologio and from the other hand they seem to be the owners of those landfields for the Greek inland revenue since 1998 and specifically 4 months after the grandfathers christos death. 4 months is the time lapse for someone to disclaim the inheritance, and if he doesn't then he is typically the owner and remains the paperwork to be done. This paperwork im trying to finish the last 4 months. The paperwork consists in gathering all the documents necessary and needed by the notary public, such as certificate of death, certificate of the nearest relatives of the deceased and many more, so that my father, Lola and chrisoula could finally obtain the titles for the rest of the property."

    I would like to point out that at issue here are, I am guessing, perhaps a couple of thousand square meters of Greek agricultural land. Take all square meters of Greek agricultural land, divide the above couple of thousand square meters into that number and you can derive how many such excercises will have to be made before 2020 if the deadline for completing the land registry is to be kept. Or better - don't do that!

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  9. An international tender to record deeds, titles and surveying maps was declared void in March 2016. And a new one will be opened. (Causing certain delay for the land registration process and the 2020 objective)

    http://www.naftemporiki.gr/story/1080990/tender-for-land-registry-declared-void

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