Griekenland moet bijzondere korting op vennootschapsbelasting onmiddellijk stoppen (en)

vrijdag 21 oktober 2005

The European Commission has required Greece under the EU state aid rules to suspend further granting of illegal state aid in the form of tax breaks under Greek Law 3220/2004. This law reduces the tax base of many companies in various sectors by 35% of their profits. This measure was never notified to the Commission and is therefore illegal. At the same time the Commission has launched an in-depth investigation as it has doubts that such aid would be compatible with EC Treaty state aid rules (Article 87) because of the serious risk that it will distort competition in a way liable to affect trade between Member States. If the Commission finds the aid to be contrary to the EC Treaty, it may require Greece to recover the unlawful aid paid to undertakings, including interest.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes i said: "When Member States distort competition with illegal state aid I will seek the most effective remedy at my disposal, including an injunction to suspend the measures."

This is the first time in recent years that the Commission has required a Member State to suspend immediately the granting of state aid before a final decision by the Commission. Such a suspension is justified in this case given the continuous use of this measure by Greece and the increasing distortion of competition in the Single Market.

Article 2 of the Greek Law 3220/2004 allows companies to deduct up to 35% of profits in 2003 and 2004 from their tax base for projects in a series of sectors (among others, production of textile materials and basic metals, manufacturing of automobiles, energy production, mining, intensive agriculture and fishery, large international trading companies and specific tourism undertakings). The companies must use their tax exempt income to finance expenses, such as construction, expansion and modernisation of plants and buildings, purchase of new equipment or vehicles, environmentally-motivated investments, leasing costs, studies, training, patent registration and many others.

Thousands of companies can claim this benefit directly from the tax authorities as the aid scheme is part of the Greek tax system. To prevent further distortions of competition the Commission has required Greece to suspend immediately the application of the measure.

The Commission is concerned that the measure appears to breach several aspects of EC Treaty state aid rules that aim to ensure fair competition for all companies in the European Union. The Commission has therefore opened an in-depth investigation, and is inviting all interested parties to submit their comments.