Greece Business Immigration is a strategic way to save taxes, explore new markets, and benefit from a more business-friendly environment.
Are you an international citizen seeking access to the EU? A Greece Golden Visa can help you with this! Once in the Hellenic Republic, you can start your own business to generate income via dividends. With this, you can also benefit from the many Greek tax incentives, gain access to the EU market, and actively manage your wealth and assets.
This guide by Immigration Explorer, a top golden visa agency, explains everything you need to know about doing business in Greece. This includes how to get a Greek Golden Visa as a non-EU national and how to set up a company in the Hellenic Republic.
Why Choose a Business Location Abroad?
To begin with, you may ask yourself why anyone would set up a business abroad in the first place.
Starting a business in a strategic location can actually have many up-sides. For example, you may find more business- and tax-friendly environments, investment incentives, plus the opportunity to get a second residency.
Besides, The cost of living, including rent for yourself and your business, as well as the workforce can be more affordable. Plus, you can take advantage of the opportunity to explore new markets for your products and services. Finally, leaving your comfort zone always provides room for personal growth.
Surely, there are many countries with a variety of advantages and incentives for businesses and the investments they bring. However, we will focus on one of our personal favorites – Greece.
Greece Business Immigration
As a member state of the European Union and part of the Schengen zone, Greece serves as a strategic location in Europe and a gateway to the East alike.
Key Advantages of Doing Business in Greece
If you are a non-EU citizen, getting a Greek Golden Visa (permanent residence permit) has many benefits.
- Gain residency and travel access to the EU and Schengen area
- Sunny weather and vibrant culture
- Affordable cost of living and relaxed lifestyle
- Excellent healthcare system
- Easier way to start your own business in Greece
Besides, a Greece Golden Visa also allows you to start a business. This has the following key advantages:
- While the Golden Visa doesn’t allow you to work as an employee, you can start a company and pay yourself dividends. Click here for more detailed instructions on how to set up a business in Greece.
- 57 double taxation treaties
- Well-educated and affordable labor cost
- English is widely spoken
- Geo-strategic position in Europe and gateway to the East
- Exciting investment opportunities
Recently, the Hellenic Republic has started a number of tax and business incentives to attract foreign companies, capital, and workforce.
Greece is establishing itself as a modern location for forward-thinking business owners and entrepreneurs. In fact, more and more tech firms are opening hubs in Greece. For example, Microsoft is planning a more than 1 billion USD investment in Greece for the establishment of its new activities in Europe, including cloud services.
To promote its role as a business hub, the Greek government is working on a law that will offer an income tax incentive of up to 50% to workers who move there from abroad, so-called “digital migrants”. This means that with this incentive, workers only have to pay 50% income tax for the next 7 years if they relocate to Greece before the end of 2021. The aim is to create more professional jobs and reverse the country’s brain-drain.
Besides, non-doms (non-domiciled) residents, who live in Greece for at least 6 months of the year, and invest 500,000€ or more in 3 years receive a special tax break. From 2019, those investors are entitled to a flat tax rate of 100,000€ annually on their income.
Moreover, dividends from LLC/EPE and PLC/SA companies for taxable periods after 1 January 2020 are taxed via corporate withholding taxation at the flat rate of 5% instead of 10%.
In addition, real estate investors don’t have to pay VAT on newly built properties if they buy before the end of 2022.
Also, keep in mind that the Greek government is currently working on an agreement to attract foreign pensioners. The planned tax incentive will include a flat 7% income tax for foreign retirees.
China’s New Silk Road
Besides, China is investing several trillion USD in its Belt and Road Initiative to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and sea.
As part of this investment program, China is also collaborating with Greece. For example, Athens’ harbor “Piraeus” has become the Mediterranean’s leading container handling port. China and Greece have joined workforces and investments to create what is now the fourth largest harbor in Europe and 26th largest globally. Since 2015, its handling volume grew by 70%.
Golden Visa Opportunities in Greece
After you have obtained your permanent residency in Greece through real estate investment, you can set up your company. The Golden Visa itself allows you to stay in Greece, but not work as a “normal” employee. With your own company, you can pay yourself dividends and thus generate an income.
First, we have a short recap of the application process for you. Non-EU HNWIs, entrepreneurs, and retirees can get a Golden Visa through real estate invest as follows:
- Real estate investment of ~293,000 USD (250,000€)
- Quick processing time (around 40 days) and high approval rate (99%)
- No minimum stay requirement after you have your residency permit
- Favorable rules for family members include children up to 21 years old
- After 7 years of residency, you can apply for citizenship through naturalization
Take advantage of these investments in real estate opportunities while they are still affordable. With a rising number of foreign investors and a growing number of international companies setting up branches in Greece, those real estate prices will continue to rise.
How to Set Up a Company in Greece
First and foremost, you should have a clear plan and idea of what kind of business you would like to conduct. It always helps to write everything down in the form of a business plan. Especially if you are seeking financing from third parties.
Once that is all clear and you have your Greek residency, you can officially register your company. While it is not mandatory to have a Golden Visa as a non-EU citizen to start a company in Greece, it surely makes the process easier. Besides, with an increasing substance of regulations, it becomes more and more difficult to manage a company as a non-resident. Therefore, it is always easier to be in the same location as your company.
Whether you are new to Greece or have been living there for a while, it makes sense to hire a lawyer who is experienced with the business setup process. Immigration Explorer has the best contacts for you!
Select the legal form of your business
Principally, you can choose between being a sole trader or starting a corporate company. There are four types of corporate companies:
A. Private Limited Company (IKE)
B. Limited Liability Company (LLC/EPE)
C. General Partnership or Limited Partnership
D. Public Limited Company (PLC/SA)
Let’s look at how to set up these different types of businesses one by one.
A. Private Limited Company
This is the most popular form of creating a new company in Greece for start-ups and SMEs. Natural individuals, legal entities, EU- and non-EU citizens can start an IKE. This stands for “Idiotiki Kefalaiouchiki Etaireia” in Greek and literally means “Private Capital Company”.
An IKE is liable for its corporate debts, but the liability of the partners for corporate debts towards third parties is limited to the amounts mentioned in its Articles of Association.
There is no minimum capital and the partners can participate in the company by contributions in cash or in-kind, for example as personal services.
Non-EU citizens, who acquired a Greek residence permit as real estate owners (Golden Visa), can act as legal representatives of an IKE. While they cannot pay themselves a salary, they can pay themselves dividends from the company. You can appoint a trustee as the Director of the IKE.
A withholding tax of 5% is applicable to shareholders of 25% and above.
How to set up a PLC/IKE
- In order to set up a business in Greece, you need a registered office in Greece.
- To get your tax identification number (TIN), fill out a tax clearance form A7 and submit it to the tax authority office of your municipality. You can find your tax office on the website of the Greek Ministry of Finance. Note that the tax ID is different from an AMKA or Greek social security number. Foreigners must assign a local Tax Representative to get the TIN. Legal persons who start an IKE must assign a Legal Representative.
- Fill out the application for a new company at the General Commercial Registry (GEMI) and include the required documents. For example, you will need your Articles of Association, which includes your company name, address, your ID, and other information. A lawyer can help you to draw up your Articles of Association, but this is not mandatory.
- Create a company seal, which you need for doing business officially and for your bookkeeping/accounting.
- Register your employees (EU citizens) with the Greek Social Security Institute (IKA). The cost is around €150 and the processing time is about 2 weeks.
- Register with the Greek Chamber of Commerce. The cost is €100 per year and may differ depending on the required Chamber.
Once the registration process is completed, you will receive your company TIN, VAT number, and the information for online tax submissions (Klidarithmos).
Keep in mind that certain professions may require a license, for example, accountants, or lawyers. Check with the General Commercial Registry if your profession or sector requires a license.
B. Limited Liability Company (LLC/EPE)
This type of business requires a higher initial investment (at least 4,500€) but provides limited liability of all partners. Let’s look at the steps in detail.
Same as with the IKE, non-EU citizens with a Golden Visa residency permit for Greece, can act as the legal representative of the EPE. They can pay themselves dividends (not salaries) and appoint a trustee as the Director of the EPE.
- To register a company at the General Commercial Registry, submit the ID and residency permit of the founder, form M1 (application for tax ID) and form M7 (tax relations), the company’s Articles of Association (see above), and other documents as requested.
- The processing time is 4-5 working days, and the cost is around 100€.
Keep in mind that dividends from EPE companies for taxable periods after 1 January 2020 are subject to corporate withholding taxation at the flat rate of 5% instead of 10%. An LLC is subject to a Greek corporate income tax of 24%.
D. General Partnership or Limited Partnership
A General Partnership consists of at least two partners with unrestricted responsibilities. There is no minimum capital requirement.
The same goes for the Limited Partnership with two or three partners and no minimum capital requirement. However, at least one of the partners is the limited partner with his/her liability depending on the amount of his/her contribution.
Again, same as above. Non-EU citizens with a residency permit for Greece (Golden Visa through real estate investment), can be the legal representative of the General or Limited Partnership. You can pay yourself dividends (not salaries) and appoint a trustee as the Director of the Partnership.
These dividends will be taxed at a flat rate of 5% corporate withholding tax (instead of 10%) for taxable periods after 1 January 2020.
- To register a partnership at the General Commercial Registry, submit your company’s Articles of Association (see above) the documents of the founder(s), form M1 (application for tax ID) and M7 (taxpayer relations) as well as other documents as required.
- The processing time is 4-5 working days and the cost is around 70€.
Finally, let’s look at the partnership options to set up your business.
D. Public Limited Company (PLC/SA)
A PLC is a trade company, suitable for larger businesses and corporations as it requires a minimum capital of 60,000€. The capital is typically divided into shares.
Attention! This company type is different for non-EU nationals! A third-country national can set up a PLC/SA in Greece without a residence permit. In this case, a minimum of three persons must form the Board of Directors. None of them need a residence permit.
However, same as above, dividends from a company for taxable periods after 1 January 2020 are only subject to 5% corporate withholding taxation (flat-rate) instead of 10%.
- To register a public limited company at the General Commercial Registry, submit your company’s Articles of Association (see above), the documents of the founder(s), form M1 (application for tax ID), and M7 (taxpayer relations) as well as other documents as required.
- The processing time is 4-5 working days and the cost is around 100€.
This brings us to the end of the four different business types. Next look at the taxation for your business.
General Taxation in Greece
Greek businesses have a corporate tax rate of 24% and VAT is 24% as well.
Besides, investors can benefit from VAT exemption when purchasing newly built properties until the end of 2022. Plus, dividends from LLC/EPE and PLC/SA companies for taxable periods after 1 January 2020 are subject to only 5% corporate withholding taxation (flat-rate) instead of 10%.
New tax residents in Greece can soon get a special gift from the government. If you move to the country in 2021, you don’t have to pay income tax on half of your salary as an employee for the next 7 years. While this does not apply for Golden Visa holders, they are eligible for the 100,000€ flat tax (non-dom rule).
Greece has a progressive taxation rate on all local income, including pensions.
The tax ranges from 9 to 44%.
- < €10,000: 9%
- €10,001 – €20,000: 22%
- €30,001 – €40,000: 36%
- €40,001 – €50,000: 36%
- > €50,001: 44%
If you rent a property privately rental income is taxed between 15% and 45% (in addition to other taxes like income tax). The estimated rental return of investment is 3% – 7%.
Sectors for Investment in Greece
After the financial crisis between 2009 and 2018, the Greek economy is slowly recovering. Restructuring and reform processes in the private and public sectors have been implemented. Besides, consumer spending per capita is higher in Greece than in any other EU country.
The recent Coronavirus-pandemic impacts economies worldwide, including Greece, where the services market and tourism particularly suffer. Nonetheless or because of this, now is a good time to lift the potential of business opportunities in Greece.
In fact, real estate (for the golden visa program), infrastructure (largely EU-funded), and (green) energy projects, remain attractive. Besides, the banking and finance sectors are also worth mentioning, primarily due to the Greek non-performing loan (NPL) market, the largest in Europe.
Finally, the tourism sector is expected to recover quickly after the Covid-19-pandemic is overcome.
Do business and reside in the country of the Gods! The experts at Immigration Explorer have shared their knowledge of doing international business in Greece. You have learned about the various tax incentives and countless other advantages of starting a company in the Hellenic Republic.
Are you ready to enjoy the benefits of having a business in Greece and living in one of the Mediterranean’s most beautiful countries? Be a first mover, and stay ahead of the competition. Get your FREE immigration consultation now!