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Thousands of Greek Australians face paying higher taxes on their properties in Greece and fear their Australian earnings are also under threat of being doubly taxed.
Greece’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Konstantinos Tsiaras, has responded to those concerns during a visit to Sydney, assuring Greek Australians his government will not tax them on income they earn in Australia.
But Mr Tsiaras said taxes on property owned in Greece and any rental income – or potential income – would be taxed at a higher rate as part of that government’s tough austerity measures.
Introduction of the new taxes has been temporarily postponed and Mr Tsiaras said it was possible they might be revised if the Greek economy improved by the end of this year.
”We believe the stabilisation program that we have followed for about five months now will give us much better economic indicators,” Mr Tsiaras said. ”By the end of the year, we are going to turn the corner.”
Australian officials are expecting the new Greek tax arrangements to be finalised by May.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the Australian government was keeping ”possible double taxation agreements under constant review”.
”We have not yet been briefed on new Greek government tax measures,” the spokesman said.
”Once details are clearer, the government will be able to determine the possible impact of the new measures on Australians of Greek descent.”
There are more than 260,000 people of Greek nationality in Australia, with almost 126,000 born in Greece, according to data from the 2006 census.
Mr Tsiaras said the Greek government was also reviewing the need for complicated paper work Greek Australians have been asked to fill out to register their Australian citizenship.
Costa Potiris, a journalist at Sydney’s Greek Herald has written about the proposed tax law changes and said Australia’s Greek community was very concerned about the possibility of paying taxes on income earned in Australia.
”I am considered to be Greek living in Greece therefore all my income is subject to Greek taxation,” he said. ”People are very worried.”
The Greek ambassador to Australia, Charalambos Dafaranos, said there was no risk Greek Australians would be taxed on the income they earned in Australia.
”We want people to know that if they have income from rented properties in Greece or if they have property, they need to declare it,” he said.
”Nobody needs to know how much they earn or pay tax in Australia.
”They will not be required to pay a double tax. What interests us is if they are residents of a foreign land.”
A spokesman for the Australian Tax Office said there had been no talks between Greece and the ATO in relation to Australian residents being taxed for the work they do in Australia.
Australia is also negotiating with Greece on a reciprocal work and holiday visa program between Australia and Greece.
The current draft agreement proposes a cap of 500 visas a year.