Samaras Plans Austerity Tax Breaks

ATHENS – Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is forging ahead with a plan insisted upon by international lenders to unify the salary structure of public workers and said he wants to convince the creditors to allow tax cuts.

Salaries vary wildly for the same job in the Greek public service, depending on which ministry or agency a person works for as there is no uniform structure. Parliament workers, for example, are paid considerably more than other Greek workers and have also been exempted from austerity measures.

The government is almost done with a reform needed before envoys from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) return in September to check the books on progress in meeting fiscal targets.

Samaras’ speech for the annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF) in September, a prime spot for a Premier to make big promises, hasn’t been prepared yet because he wants to see the outcome of talks in Paris between Greek and Troika officials earlier in the month.

Greece wants to restructure or cut the debt, including 240 billion euros ($327 billion) in two bailouts from the Troika, but that could force taxpayers in the other 17 Eurozone countries to pay the tab for generations of wild overspending by the ruling New Democracy Conservatives and its partner the PASOK Socialists.

With big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings seeing the ruling parties’ popularity fall, Samaras is also keen to get some breaks from austerity ahead of the next scheduled elections in 2016 with the major opposition Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) party, which opposes the terms, now in the lead.

Greece wants as tax breaks and favorable repayment terms for individuals and businesses with non-performing loans, which are nearly 40 percent of what’s owed banks.

Samaras wants to use TIF, where Greek leaders traditionally offer big handouts to gain votes, to announce a series of tax breaks and austerity cuts, Kathimerini said.

He reportedly wants a 15 percent flat tax rate for corporate profits, a top rate on income tax of 33 percent, as opposed to the current 42 percent, the reduction of Value-Added Tax from 23 percent to 15 percent in as many cases as possible, the reduction of a consumption tax on heating oil and the eventual abolition of a solidarity tax on income.