ATHENS – A furor over a new unified property tax bill based on flawed data that resulted in many Greeks getting astronomical assessments intensified after it was found a children’s charity was told to pay 95,000 euros – wrongly.
Ironically, the news that the Smile of the Child was sent the bill by mistake came from the PASOK Socialists who are partners in the ruling administration of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives.
Finance Ministry officials are scrambling to correct an embarrassing gaffe created by the so-called ENFIA property tax bill that includes a surcharge assessed three years ago by PASOK, a fee that was supposed to be temporary.
That was attached to electric bills under the threat of having power turned off for non-payment even if people couldn’t legitimately pay because of harsh austerity measures that created record unemployment and deep poverty.
People’s properties, whose value fell precipitously, were hit with a double whammy: assessments far higher than the property was worth, and a bill assessed on a big tax hike.
PASOK said the Finance Ministry had made a mistake in sending a bill to the charity after its President, Costas Giannopoulos, revealed that its property tax bill came to almost 95,000 euros.
“We cannot pay such an amount,” Giannopoulos told ANT1 TV. “We are going through a tough time because we have to help more children. In the first half of this year we supported 57,000 kids. The state is faceless and does not help institutions.”
ENFIA has been the cause of a row between New Democracy and PASOK. Conservative officials said its failures are a result of the emergency property tax designed by PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos when he was finance minister. He is now Samaras’ Deputy Premier/Foreign Minister and now is opposed to the bill he imposed.
PASOK argued that the previous tax, levied through electricity bills, was fairer although it resulted in thousands of homes losing power.
Government officials still don’t have a plan to deal with the erroneous bills, other than to say people will have to pay them for now – but over a longer period of time.