Maria Louisa Eleftheriades has dual qualification to practice law in Greece and in the State of New York. She spoke with The National Herald about investment opportunities in Greece, and about ways in which any obstacles can be overcome – she also offered valuable tax advice.
The full interview follows:
The National Herald: Mrs. Eleftheriades, thank you for joining us for this interview today. Why would anyone invest in Greece, and why now?
MLE Eleftheriades: Greece has always been an attractive destination for people from all over the world, both for tourism as well as for permanent residency. The financial crisis of the previous decade had lowered real estate market values, but the economy has recently picked up and real estate has regained value over the past couple of years, with quite optimistic projections for the years to come.
Greece is moving forward to a new digitalized era and large investments are underway, such as the Elliniko Project, and the upgrade of infrastructure, including public transportation in Athens and Thessaloniki, as well as other investments by private companies and multinationals, for example the creation of data centers, new hotel chains, etc. Greece is doing quite well in most of the indexes of the economy and is expected to attract even more investments, driving the values to new highs. This is the case for investments around tourism, real estate, but also other sectors of the economy.
TNH: What are the investment opportunities?
MLE: There are many opportunities for investment, not only in Athens, but in other large cities in Greece, which offer many real estate investment opportunities, not only to the large investor but also to the small investor, who may wish to buy small fixer-upper apartments to rent to college students or singles or to turn into them into Airbnb. And of course, there are the islands, with opportunities for summer homes, hotel/motel investments, small shops, etc.
TNH: That sounds great, but what are some of the obstacles that investors come across when doing business in Greece and how can one deal with them?
MLE: It is true that especially in the past, Greece was notorious for the bureaucracy associated with investors’ attempts to incorporate, while it is also true that even today, the law requires a lot of paperwork produced prior to the purchase of real estate by either individuals or legal entities. This has to do, in part, with the fact that Greece’s public sector wasn’t digitalized at all. However, great progress has been achieved lately, as most of the public sector has digitalized, new legislation allows for an easier establishment of flexible corporate types of business and for a less onerous taxation, and there are investment programs that are qualified for European as well as for Greek State grants and subsidies depending on the investment value and so forth.
It is vital that investors engage a good team of local professionals such as engineers, lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents to facilitate the process.
TNH: Could you provide us with a basic outline of the process regarding real estate investments?
MLE: Once a potential investor decides on a piece of property or has put together a business plan, then it is advisable for the investor to provide a Power of Attorney to a lawyer. The Power of Attorney does not need to be signed at a Greek Consulate abroad. In the United States, for instance, a Power of Attorney may be executed before a notary public and then receive an Apostille by the Secretary of State.
Then, the team of local Greek professionals will take over the process. A Tax Identification Number should be obtained for the investor and a tax representative appointed, without the investor’s presence being required. A corporation can be established with the use of a POA, as well.
Then, the collection of the paperwork required for the transaction and liaising with the public offices may also be handled by a lawyer, including execution of the notarial purchase deed on the investor’s behalf, the recording of the deed, and reporting it to the tax office.
Further, lawyers and other skilled professionals may undertake relevant work revolving around the investment, such as dealing with the National Cadastre Office (Real Estate Registry Office – ‘Ktimatologio’), the Golden Visa program (if applicable), grants and subsidies that an entrepreneur can apply for (if eligible), the management of real property, which is usually handled by real estate companies, and coordination with other professionals on many relevant issues.
And of course, lawyers will help investors during the lifetime of the investment, including transfers to third parties or inheritance matters, estate planning such as drafting of wills, etc.
Having mentioned the Golden Visa, it is important to say that there are cases of Americans who wish to live in Greece and are of Greek descent but are not able to prove it. By investing a minimum of 250,000 euro, an investor can initially acquire a five-year residency for him and his family, which will then allow him to apply for a Greek passport.
TNH: You mentioned, tax reporting, could you please provide us with any tax tips?
MLE: American residents and citizens should report in their U.S. tax return their worldwide income, which includes income produced in Greece.
However, as the income produced in Greece, such as rental income, either of an individual or a corporation, should be reported and taxed in Greece, regardless of whether the taxpayer is a foreign resident or not, this tax will be credited against the U.S. tax, as there is a U.S.-Greece treaty for the avoidance of double taxation.
As the Greek tax rates are most often higher than the U.S. ones, it is most likely that the dual tax payer will not have to pay any additional tax in the United States.
Maria Louisa Eleftheriades has dual qualification to practice law in Greece and the State of New York. More info at www.lmelawfirm.eu and The Elliniko Project – https://theellinikon.com.gr/en.