Opening a bank account in Greece by foreigners intending to acquire real estate property
Foreigners who wish to buy real estate property in Greece are not expressly required by the law to open a bank account with a bank in Greece; in practice, however, they need to open an account in order to be able to pay the real estate transfer tax (which is payable to the Tax Office at the property’s location or to any other Tax Office in the district of the Notary who executes the deed of transfer, provided that it agrees to receive the transfer tax declaration).
Transfer tax is payable to the Tax Office in either of the following ways: a) A payment code is issued by the Tax Office and the payable amount of tax is wired to the respective account from a bank account held with a Greek bank, or b) By means of a cheque issued by a Greek bank to the Greek Government, which is deposited to the Tax Office’s treasury department.
In fact, for reasons of internal revenue management, the option of a wire transfer was recently abolished in situations where the Tax Office receiving payment is not the one at the property’s location. At the same time, certain Tax Offices are only willing to accept cheques from Greek banks, rather than a wire transfer, even if the property is situated within their district).
(This is obviously due, among others, to the fact that a payment code issued for transfer tax payment purposes is only valid for a few days, whereas a wire transfer from a foreign bank may take longer. Moreover, it may take up to 1 month for a foreign bank cheque to be redeemed).
Furthermore, once the deed of transfer has been signed, the foreign purchaser is liable to pay the applicable conveyance charges to the competent Land Register or Cadastral Service (although, given that these charges are usually of a smaller value, they can be wired from a foreign bank to the Notary’s account or to an account of the purchaser’s tax representative or accountant – that is, if the latter consents, because, following the imposition of capital controls and due to the strict tax controls which are now being conducted, these persons are no longer willing to offer that service).
Lastly, in practice, a person who has acquired real estate property in Greece is liable to pay for the property’s utility charges (power / water/ telephone charges); therefore, the purchaser needs to maintain a bank account with a Greek bank, in order to be able to effect payments of this kind.
Public Power Corporation of Greece (“DEH”) and the Greek Telecom (“OTE”) receive electronic payments (wire transfers) from countries of the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) [i.e. from EU member states, including from the United Kingdom (for now) and also from Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Norway and San Marino], but it is questionable whether this applies also in respect of mobile telephony providers and local water supply organisations.
In relation to the SEPA countries and Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Monaco, Norway and San Marino, certain taxes and charges levied by the Ministry of Finance can be wired to Bank of Greece. This applies also to ENFIA charges, but it doesn’t seem to apply to property transfer tax payments.As regards the information required to open a bank account in Greece, where the account holder is a foreign citizen, it is the same as that required by Bank of Greece from Greek citizens (such information is listed in BoG Act no. 281/17.3.2009), for money laundering prevention purposes, i.e.:
- Name and surname, father’s name, date and place of birth;
- Copy of Identity Card / Passport (or any other document including any information which is not included in an Identity Card or a Passport);
- Current home address;
- Contact number;
- Current work address;
- Tax registration number in the country of origin, Greek tax registration number, where applicable;
- Annual income;
- Signature sample (which means that the person concerned needs to appear at the bank in person at least once).
The above information must be evidenced by official documents which cannot be falsified.
Therefore, the bank will normally request a power / telephone / water bill, a lease agreement, a payroll statement, a tax clearance certificate etc.
Moreover, given that these documents are executed in a foreign language, the bank will normally require that they be Apostilled, in order to ensure document originality (this entails further difficulties, as the foreigner will have to address a municipal service, a district court or a notary at his/her country of origin, depending on what applies in each country, in order to have copies of the above documents officially certified or have the notary’s signature Apostilled etc.)
The information required by each bank may slightly vary, but Bank of Greece definitely requires the information set out above.
Lastly, it should be pointed out that, due to the imposition of capital controls, foreigners are only able to open bank accounts in Greece if a minimum amount of €10,000.00 is wired to the account from a foreign bank.