ATHENS – Greece's New Democracy government is trying to entice scores of thousands of professional workers abroad to move to the country and bring their skills, offering a 50 percent exemption on income tax.
The aim is to create more jobs and utilize the talents of some of the country's best and brightest who fled to other countries in search of work and a batter life, held down by Greece's clientelism system that rewards those with political connections and holds down entrepreneurs.
Alex Patelis, who advises Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on financial matters, told the news agency Reuters that Greece hoped to attract "digital migrants" after the COVID-19 pandemic let people work remotely.
"A worker from abroad who moves to Greece will be eligible for a 50 percent exemption on income earned here for seven years under the plan," he said adding that legislation will be brought to Parliament by the end of the year.
While the attraction would be especially keen for Greeks who left and those in the Diaspora whose jobs allow them to live anywhere, it's offered to those moving to Greece or a company relocating a worker.
There are limits: the incentive package will be available only during 2021 and only people who have not been Greek tax residents within the last seven years will be eligible, which could lock out thousands.
"The main criterion for eligibility for the tax incentive is tax residence," Patelis said, but didn't explain if Greeks working abroad for more than seven years would be eligible as Greece taxes citizens on worldwide income.
There will be no restrictions on levels of income or types of work, although the government hopes to attract professionals and to lure back some of the estimated 800,000 Greeks who left during the years-long debt crisis to pursue careers abroad. "An extra push is needed to see them return," Patelis said.
There were no reports that the tax break would be given to those living in Greece who have the same skills as those who return.
"The Coronavirus pandemic has also shown that it is possible in many cases for one to choose where to live and work thanks to technology. We can have digital migrants,” said Patelis.
Greece also hopes to get workers who moved to the United Kingdom, which is leaving the European Union at the end of the year. "We just want to get a share of that pie," he added.
Any Greek or foreigner, regardless of nationality, who has been tax domiciled outside of Greece for at least seven of the last eight years will be able to utilize the incentives planned according to the regulation if they create one new job, said Kathimerini.
The measure was conceived over the UK's EU departure after investment banks showed interest in opening offices in Greece or expanding those already in Greece, the paper also said.
Sources not named said three banks have contacted the government which believes interest could spread to other types of companies as well as workers who have the special skill sets most wanted.
The government hasn't yet considered imposing any restrictions regarding the income or profession of those who benefit from this clause, as has been the case in Spain, Italy, Sweden and France.
“Technology allows us to choose where we live and work,” Patelis told the Bloomberg financial news agency. “Besides the sun, the country can now offer tax incentives too."