February 27, 2019 / 2:54 PM / 25 days ago

Greek shipowners agree to pay 75 million euros annually to state

ATHENS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - Greek shipowners will pay at least 75 million euros ($85.37 million) annually to the state budget, the prime minister’s office said on Wednesday, under a deal that replaces a previous voluntary arrangement.

The sum is equivalent to a 10 percent levy on dividends, according to a statement by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s office.

Along with tourism, shipping is a pivotal sector for the Mediterranean country. Greek shipowners operate some of the world’s biggest tankers and bulk carriers. Greek shipping accounts for almost half of the EU’s total fleet capacity.

Tsipras said that under Greek law shipowners are not obliged to agree on any contribution and that the deal was a “significant” contribution to the country’s efforts to emerge from a debt crisis that has lasted nearly a decade.

“It shows that there is a sense of collective responsibility toward our efforts to exit the crisis,” Tsipras said. “We must all realise that emerging from the crisis means bigger business opportunities.”

Greece had for long granted generous tax allowances to its shipowners, a situation which Tsipras had pledged to end when he was first elected in 2015 but had not pursued since then.

Since 2014, Greek shipowners have made voluntary payments to the state under an agreement which expired last year. The new deal makes the payments permanent, the PM’s office said.

Shipowners have repeatedly warned that hiking taxes could push them to relocate abroad.

Theodore Veniamis, president of the Union of Greek Shipowners (UGS) said the industry was supporting “the effort the government is making for a better future in Greece.” ($1 = 0.8785 euros) (Reporting by Renee Maltezou Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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