The Greek Church dismissed claims that it does not pay taxes to the state and described such claims as “urban legend.” In a statement issued by the Holy Synod, a committee of 13 bishops, the Greek Orthodox Church officially replied to a comment by interim Economy Minister Nikos Christodulakis to Metropolit of Thessaloniki Anthimos.
During a meeting at the International Fair of Thessaloniki, the Metropolit asked the Economy Minister “where to the taxes go. Christodoulakis replied “No need to worry, no government has dared to tax the Church.”
The Holy Synod felt the obligation to clear the issue and said in a statement that it is an ‘urban legend that the Orthodox Church does not pay taxes or that it enjoys tax benefits.”
Hinting to legislative changes of the recent years in the taxation of the Church of Greece, the statement enlists the taxation of the ‘legal entities” of the Greek Church:
1. Income Tax at the rate of 26% to their revenue, which indeed are considered by law as “income from business activity,” and tax payment in advance of 55% (Law 4172/2013).
2. Donations and Inheritance Tax at the rate of 0.5%, as provided for Public Entities and Local Authorities (Law 2960/2001 and 3842/2010).
3. Value Added Tax (VAT) at the same rates, which are generally applicable to supplies of goods and services which are commercial activities (Law 2859/2000).
4. Main and supplementary Unified Property Tax (EN.F.I.A.) for all properties (Law 4223/2013 and 4286/2014 ). Exempted from ENFIA are only places of worship and charitable areas (eg nursing homes, soup kitchens facilities) that are been used in properties owned by the Church “idiochrisimopoiountai”. This exemption does not apply only to the Church but also to all legally existing places of worship or properties used by non-profit organizations and legal entities (associations, foundations, etc. ) ( Law 4223/2013).
Moreover taxes are being withheld and paid by the ecclesiastical legal entities for all paid salaries or independent services (Law 4172/2013), as well as legal fees (Presidential Decree of 07.28.1931) and fees charged on the turnovers (eg for OGA farmers’ pension fund), regulations that generally apply to all other legal entities.”
The statement was published in ecclesia.gr via ProtoThema.gr
So far, so good. However, the Church and monasteries revenues are unclear as “There is no accounting system to detail its actual income and no one really knows quite how much land it owns because there is no land register,” so politician and former finance minister Stefanos Manos.
“The borderline between places of worship and charitable organisations is fuzzy and the accounts of the Orthodox church are opaque” – The Guardian
How much land does the Greek church owns?
According to the right-of-centre daily Kathimerini newspaper, the church was worth €700m in 2008.
Stefanos Manos reckons the figure is at least €1bn.
The €2.5m in tax paid is slight in comparison to these unconfirmed figures.
But this is only part of what the church owns, in the care of the central administration. It does not take into account the many parishes, some of which are very rich, nor property under the direct ownership of Greece’s 80 bishoprics, which enjoy considerable independence. It also overlooks the wealth of 450 monasteries, some of which are affiliated to the church, others not (those on Mount Athos, for example, have a separate status). The Orthodox Patriarchs of Constantinople, Jerusalem and Alexandria all own property in Greece. (via the Guardian)
In early autumn 2011 there was a public outcry when the state had decided to exempt the Church from the Unified Property Tax, the decision was later revised.
“When it emerged that the church would not be paying the property tax forced the church to publish details of how much tax it does pay. The church claims to have paid €2.5m in property and corporation tax for 2010; it mentioned that it owns 30 properties in Athens (six of them unoccupied) and 14 in Thessaloniki.” (The Guardian, 4 Oct 2011).
The 10,000 priests and bishops are paid by the state, which costs €220 million a year.
PS Now some mean Greeks will claim that they never receive a receipt when a buy a candle in churches and monasteries. But this is just a paradox among leftists, socialists, communists and other atheists who believe that the Saints are in fact poor.
Apostle Matthaios, patron saint for tax collectors & accountants