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Greek holiday villas face tax probe

- by Jeremy Guest

Greek holiday villas face tax probe.

Greek hoteliers have called for a tax crackdown on thousands of Greek Islands holiday villa owners who rent out their holiday accommodation illegally. The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels estimates there are around 70,000 holiday villas and apartments rented out without a statutory licence.

They claim the Greek holiday villas scam could be costing the Greek government many millions of euros each year.

There has been a sharp rise in the number of villa holiday offers as cash strapped property owners try to bypass extra taxes in the tough Greek economic climate.

And Internet advertising has opened the door for Greek Islands villas owners to let out their property without registering as a holiday firm.

President of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels George Tsakiris e claimed the 'lost' revenue for Greece from illegal letting of villas and homes annually is between €500 million to €1 billion, based on data from Bank of Greece estimates.

"Illegal rental housing is an activity that competes, unfairly with legally operating hotels which pay taxes, employ staff, observe safety requirements and fire regulations," he said.

The Chamber has sent a list of email addresses websites that promote private holiday villa accommodation to government tax and tourism officials and called for controls and penalties to stop the practice.

The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels also claims it is receiving regular complaints and grievances from both hoteliers and from holiday visitors about misleading advertising and promotion, accommodation and services offered on the Internet.

The Chamber has been checking websites since December last year and has noted 27 websites where Greek holiday villas are being offered by owners not registered with tax authorities.

Hotel owners also want a crackdown on the practice of people offering rooms and accommodation at Greek Islands ports and ferry terminals. Holiday visitors can be besieged by room offers as they embark from ferries.

The practice is actually illegal and punishable by law but most port authorities and police turn a blind eye. But the Chamber claims the practice allows owners of illegal rooms and accommodation to cream off holiday customers.

The Chamber gives examples of private villas that have been turned into mini-hotels that are operating outside the law. They claim some illegal luxury villas can accommodate more than 10 holidaymakers at a time.