Greek Tonnage Tax Imposed on Foreign-Flagged Vessels
Greece has finally imposed a tonnage tax on foreign-flagged vessels operated by shipping companies in Greece. It already had been taxing Greek-flagged ships, and the nation’s debt crisis left the government with no other choice than to tax foreign-flagged ships in an attempt to help raise its revenues. The government is hoping it will raise at least $106 million from the levy.
The Greek state is targeting an estimated 762 managers with the new laws, which went into effect as of January 2013. Fortunately, ship owners and management companies’ ship earnings are excluded from the tax, as it only applies to the tonnage of their ships.
The Greek Ministry of Finance has issued the following guidelines as to who is liable for this new tax and how to calculate it:
- The tax is levied on ships managed by companies in Greece which own foreign-flagged vessels.
- The tax will be calculated using the gross tonnage of the vessel and the age of the vessel.
- The tax will be calculated in U.S. Dollars and converted into and paid in Euros.
- The foreign ship owner and the ship management office will be jointly liable for payment of the tax.
- The responsibility for filing the tax return lies with the ship owner, the ship manager and their representatives or their attorneys-in-fact.
- The annual return must be filed by the end of February for the previous calendar year; 25% of the tonnage tax assessed must be paid at the time the return is filed (February) with the remaining 75% paid in three equal installments due in June, September, and December.
The first year the tax was implemented was for 2012, meaning to be in compliance with the new law, 2012 taxes should have been filed by the end of this past February, with additional payments made in June, this month and in December 2013. Ship owners or ship managers that have not yet filed their 2012 tonnage tax will accrue a 1.5% monthly penalty fee (interest) which will be added to their outstanding taxes for filing untimely. If Greek authorities feel that an owner cannot pay his taxes, they could revert to arresting the vessel, but this extreme measure is unlikely to be implemented. Those needing further guidance should contact their attorney and accountant.
The Union of Greek Ship Owners (EEE) informed its members that it had reached an agreement with the government to implement an extraordinary additional voluntary contribution to the tonnage tax, in addition to the mandatory amount owed, for the next three years. This voluntary tax applies to Greek-owned shipping companies, whether they have Greek- or foreign-flagged ships. This contribution is voluntary, but the Union hopes that many ship owners will participate to help increase the government’s revenues.
Joanne Mantis is an admiralty and maritime attorney focused on maritime business disputes and financial transactions. Her experience includes charter party disputes, cargo claims, vessel finance and documentation, collisions, marine casualties, and explosions.