ATHENS – Greece’s top administrative court cancelled an excise tax on wine that was part of an avalanche of new taxes and hikes imposed by the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition on orders of international lenders in return for a third bailout in 2015, for 86 billion euros ($99.93 billion).
The Greek Wine Federation (GWF) announced the reversal after it had challenged the increase it said would cut into sales. They had been joined by the National Interprofessional Organization of Vine and Wine of Greece (EDOAO), and other wine associations at the start of 2016.
The special consumption tax had been in place since January 2016 and added 15 euro cents added to the cost of a 750-millimeter bottle of wine and 20 euro cents for one liter bottles, which are less common.
The wine makers were delighted. “We worked hard and we succeeded in being heard by the Greek courts, for the sake of the entire wine industry,” Giorgos Skouras, a winemaker in Nemea and the head of GWF said in a press release.
GWF’s Director, Theodoros Georgopoulos, said the court ruling is “a great moment of vindication for the wine sector in a case with many legal aspects that will constitute a milestone in the future.”
“If we had been asked in advance, the sector would have avoided this unbearable, unjust and eventually illegal predicament,” he added.
The court’s ruling, which has not been made public yet, means the tax will be automatically cancelled and no decision has to be issued by the Finance Ministry which is powerless to stop the change.
Two years ago, in 2016, New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said if he comes to power he would overturn a wine tax hike imposed by the ruling SYRIZA-led coalition – which had promised not to raise taxes.
After a meeting with local producers at Nemea, in the Peloponnese, Mitsotakis said that the tax hike backfired and didn’t bring in more revenues amid worries that people would stop buying wine or buy less.
“It was a tragic mistake,” he said of the tax, one of many imposed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras who hit Greeks with an avalanche of new fees, reneging on his vows not to do so.