We are no tax cheats, says Church of Greece


ATHENS – The Church of Greece denied media reports accusing it of tax evasion on Wednesday, saying the total amount of taxes paid in 2011 was over 12.5 million euros (S$20.8 million).

“The Church of Greece … has never requested unequal tax treatment in relation to other Greek non-profit organisations,” the top church body, the Holy Synod said in a statement.

It added that all of its monasteries, parishes and foundations “have paid tax obligations attributed to them under the Greek law,” including a 20 per cent tax on rents collected on Church real estate properties and an 8 per cent income tax for services rendered, it added.

The Church of Greece has partly escaped austerity measures imposed by the government in its efforts to cut spending and manage its massive debt, and growing numbers of critics say it got off too lightly.

In 2011, the Orthodox Church, Greece’s second largest landowner, was exempted from a property tax that left out thousands of places of worship, focusing instead on the organisation’s commercial holdings.

The Church of Greece owns over 900 properties, including buildings rented out to hotels, offices and ministries, local media reported.

But it has lost tenants due to Greece’s financial crisis and a significant amount of its land holdings lie in protected areas and cannot be commercially exploited.

The Church of Greece commands significant political clout in a country where about 90 per cent of the population are baptised into the Orthodox faith.