The struggle over digital nomads intensifies as Greece passes a brand new tax law

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The war over digital nomads intensifies as Greece passes a new tax law

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wants more digital nomads to settle in the country.

Xinhua News Agency / Getty Images

On Wednesday (December 2nd), the Greek parliament passed a new law allowing digital nomads to cut their income tax in half. This makes Greece the youngest European country trying to attract the new work-from-home workers, and puts southern Europe in a new talismanism against the north.

“If you can work from anywhere, why not work from Greece?” asks about a promotional document the Greek Parliament saw this week. Set amid dreamy images of whitewashed farmhouses and deep blue seascapes, it contains a new law that allows newly settled foreigners to pay half of their income tax for the next seven years.

From January 2021, the system will be open to both employed and self-employed people, provided they were not previously tax resident in Greece or replace an existing job in the country.

The Kyriakos Mitsotakis government hopes the tax break will attract the newly empowered digital nomad, whom Alex Patelis, chief economic advisor to the Prime Minister, describes as “the person who spends three months in Thailand, two months in Jamaica”. and so on. We want you to be in Greece for two months, and why not? “

His sales pitch doesn’t have to be driven home. The weather and the sea on Crete, the southernmost island of Greece, are still warm. A party the night before Greece was locked in for a month on November 7 was filled with Covid expats escaping their own national locks in gloomy climates.

“It’s much nicer here than in London,” says Christoph over a glass of raki. Born in Germany, he moved to London to work as a management consultant, but moved to Greece when he was no longer needed in the office in September. The internet is good, he says, even in Tris Ekklises, a small fishing bay at the foot of a mountain.

A tender for the rollout of 5G will close in Greece this month. Reporting is expected to take place in major cities in early 2021.

“This place is a paradise, especially if you are making good money,” says Taki Despo from his new home in Athens. He moved from New York after his firm, design retailer Moro.com, allowed him to do his job as Market Relations Director remotely. “Covid didn’t really do much, it just gave me a little courage to take this step.”

Kate Silcox, who is originally from the UK but now works as a photo editor for GQ Dubai from Athens, has worked in different countries for a decade but believes that if she can save taxes, she will stay in Greece now. “It would encourage me to fully commit myself and to settle there longer in Greece.”

Greece hopes tax breaks will attract more expats like Kate to stay. You have to: Greece lost 800,000 people to richer nations in the worst years of its debt crisis between 2009 and 2015. Now it hopes to reverse this brain drain with these and other tax breaks.

A law on non-residence introduced earlier this year, a tax amnesty in November, and a family-friendly tax structure planned for next year target the wealthier nomads. But Greece is already too late for this party.

View from San Miniato over Florence

Expats in Florence, Italy.

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In Italy’s own brain drain, 800,000 people left the country between 2009 and 2019 when the economy struggled to recover from the global financial crises. She too hopes that Covid-19 and tax breaks will help replenish this talent.

In March, the Italian law “Lavoratori impatriati” was amended to allow new tax holders to earn 70% of their salary tax-free for the first five years of their stay. A system of no residence was introduced in 2017 and tax amnesties have since encouraged some riches to return to the country.

Croatia and Estonia have also sent nomad digital visas through their parliaments this year, and numerous other such programs are already on offer in the Caribbean.

But the northern European countries, which largely benefited from the brain drain of their southern neighbors, are now losing. According to InterNations, an online community for expats, foreign workers now prefer warmer European cities like Valencia and Alicante in Spain or Lisbon in Portugal, which were the top three cities in their latest study. London ranked 51st and Dublin 58th.

Move Hub, a moving platform, has helped more than 6,700 UK households move to other countries since the lockdown in March. In Europe, Spain was the most popular travel destination, with Portugal showing the largest increase year-over-year.

View of Dubrovnik with yachts in the bay

Croatia’s nomad digital visa will come into effect next year.

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This migration from northern to southern Europe has been driven by two things: technology and a pandemic that has left a professional workforce far from the office.

However, with the new Greek laws going into effect in 2021, those two things will change. A vaccine can force some workers back into the office, and better technology could allow workers to be literally anywhere. So why Greece?

Patelis believes it will depend on sun and technology. “You can rent a very nice house in a very nice location for little money and you can have a very nice life for or a third the cost of London.

“Come for the sun, stay for the taxes and technology.”