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Hahalis & Kounoupis, P.C. - Greek Law Group
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October 2015 Archives

I live in Greece. What can your firm do for me?

  1. Tax Matters - We can assist you with all Greek-US tax matters. These include filing all US FBARS, worldwide tax returns, all IRS forms (while at the same time being fully familiar of your Greek tax filings deductions and foreign tax credits - through our Greek office). When needed, our US and Greek offices can get valuations, appraisals, transactions and certifications of assets and payments.
  2. Inheritance Matters - We have the ability to represent you in all US states with regard to claiming your inheritance or rights. We do this by opening up US probates and ancillary US probate proceedings in any State. Being Greek lawyers at the same time we can understand and undertake the Greek inheritance proceeding and all Greek probate documents; and are able to value and obtain on our own itemize Greek and US assets for purposes of the Federal and State tax forms.
  3. Business Matters - Any investment in the US requires careful and strategic analysis. We have been forming US businesses for over 25 years. Mr. Kounoupis (US and Greek lawyer) was a securities and corporate lawyer for one of the largest law firms in Philadelphia. He is fully familiar with the complex US securities and corporate issues. Mr. Kounoupis has also been general counsel to NASDAQ companies and has taken companies public and led companies from both to private placements of over $1,000,000 to $50,000,00 IPOS. We have the corporate formation experience (from corporate law, regulations, tax real estate, labor) to handle the most complex transaction and we have been handling US-Greek business transactions for over 25 years.
  4. US-Employment & Labor Matters - The firm is one of the leading US labor and employment litigation firms in the US. See (www.employmentlaw-lv.com) . Mr. Kounoupis is also an expert in US labor matters (and authors the BNA Treatises on Greek Employment Law and Non-Competition, Restrictive Covenant law.
  5. Complex US-Greek litigation - The firm, under the leadership of Mr. Kounoupis has handled the most complex US-Greek Civil litigation. The ability of the firm to handle such matters in a unique way is due to the fact that Mr. Kounoupis is thoroughly familiar with the litigation systems and civil procedure of both Greece and US and has litigated numerous cases involving complex issues of both civil procedures.
  6. Real Estate Matters in US - The firm has been representing real estate buyers, development, REITS, shopping center investment, banks, partnership investors in major real estate development projects for over 25 years. The firm by substantial experience in real estate acquisition and financing and title insurance; as well as leasing.

European Law and Doing Business in Greece

O.K. You have told us above about US and Greek law - but what is the effect of Greece being in the EU? In brief, the EU tries to harmonize and create some predictability and uniformity between the different national corporate laws of its members. This of course, is necessary toward a unified market place, as called for in Articles 114 and 115 of the European Treaty. EU has direct effect and is (simply put) part of Greek law. Legal harmonization is deemed important for the objectives of a unified EU business zone. To explain EU law as it effects Greek corporate law, (and thereafter US to Greece business structures) one must consider two different areas. The first part is a series of critical EU Directives which establish rules and regulations regarding national corporate laws.

Typical Business/Investment Agreements we regularly prepare in US-Greece International Legal Matters

  1. US side Corporate Shareholder Agreement (or LLC Operating Agreement or General Partnership Agreement as applicable) identifying the obligations of each owner and incorporating a Joint Venture Agreement describing the foreign investment.
  2. A Joint Agreement describing the joint efforts and undertakings by a US Company and an EU (or other forum) company to develop a business in Greece.
  3. A Merger or Acquisition Agreement by which a US corporation purchases a whole, or controlling interest in a Greek or EU company. Or, a Share Purchase Agreement for less than a controlling share (in which case careful attention needs to be paid to potential minority squeeze out, freeze out risks and oppression).
  4. A US parent, forming a Greek Branch, and related agreements, including registration of the Greek branch and a US branch legal representative in Greece.
  5. A US parent - Greek Subsidiary arrangement by which we set up a Greek SA wholly owned by a US parent. The Greek SA Charter, tax registrations etc... must be formed and the subsidiary obligations vis a vis the parent must be spelled out.
  6. An International Licensing Agreement (by which patents trademarks or copyrighted materials owned by a US part are licensed to a Greek company); or Technology Sharing Transfer and/or Agreement - which relates to non-patented proprietary knowledge and know how).
  7. International Franchise Agreements by which a US company grants an exclusive on non-exclusive franchise to a Greek company or individual.
  8. Independent Sales Representative or Agency Agreement for Greek sales-persons working on behalf of US company - on commission or otherwise.
  9. International Employment Agreement by which Greek Branch of US Co (or Greek subsidiary) employs a Greek person or manager.

The above agreements have to be done very carefully with a full knowledge of US and Greek and EU law. Tax and labor law of both countries, in particular, must be carefully considered. Moreover, being also litigators in such cases for over 25 years, we know the provisions that must be inserted to prevent or anticipate trouble. Choice of law, choice of forum, damages, scope of work, default, payment, delivery and related issues are critical - and there can be great repercussions in failing to recognize these issues and traps. It should be noted that a US company that finds itself in litigation in Greece - without clear and favorable contracts, is in for a difficult time.

What is the US Foreign Tax Credit for US residents with income in Greece?

US Tax payers must declare to the IRS all income received in Greece. However, Greece will require Greek income tax to be paid on Greek source income. Does the Greek-American tax payer have to suffer double taxation? No. IRS Section 901 (b) allows for a Foreign Tax Credit to be taken, to reduce US Tax liability.

US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Liability when you do Business in Greece

Say you are a US investor. You buy an olive oil processing plant in Greece, which has an exclusive arrangement with a local cooperative of olive oil farmers. You learn that one of the owners of the Greek processing plant is also one of the cooperative owners and he has paid for lavish vacations and dinners for a local Mayor to block a competing cooperative from establishing a business. No problem? There will be when the US SEC/Justice Department, sues you under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Very careful legal diligence is required in acquisitions of Greek businesses from a number of perspectives.

Protection of Intellectual Property in Greece

Patent Law 1733/1987 (amended by Article 18 Law 1739/1987; 1883/1990) ratified the Patent Cooperation Treaty in Greece. By filing one international patent application there is protection in 148 countries-including all of US and Europe. Thus a US individual doing business in Greece will obtain Patent protection in Greece, through the Greek laws implementing the PCT.

Why is my bank in Greece sending me

FATCA is the US Treasury Department and IRS's way of making sure your Greek accounts are not being used to evade US taxes. Greek banks are being required to provide information on your Greek bank accounts to the IRS. The Greek bank will require information as to whether you are a US taxpayer or not. If you are you send the Greek bank Form W-9.

Laws Effecting Greek Bank Accounts

There is a lot of confusion about this. Any bank accounts in a Greek bank held by Greek-Americans, naturally must be in the name of one person or in the name of more than one person. Greek Law 3638/1932 governs joint accounts in Greek Banks. In case of death of a joint account holder, the surviving joint account holder automatically becomes the owner in the account, in the eyes of the Greek bank. This does not mean that, if you are the surviving account owner you can just call the bank and get your money. Procedures need to be followed including presentation of the Death Certificate and other legalizations before the bank.

Greek land ownership. "This land is my land, this land is your land"

Google earth satellites can survey and pin point lots and even trees throughout the globe. But Greece's land title recording and registration system is still from the middle ages when cars, let alone spaceships, did not exist. Mostly handwritten ledgers recorded, not by map, block and lot number - as in the US, but by names. Go to the County Recorder of Deeds office in a US State and you can pull the deed documents of any property, organized by a series of numbers and maps. The inconsistency in recording can result in a number of relatives or neighbors disputing your Greek property ownership claims, after you purchase it. The Ktimatologio (an attempt to properly map and register land - funded by the EU) is still a long way from completion. This creates great danger and since there is no Title Insurance in Greece, very careful title search is required before you buy any land. We have conducted title analysis and searches in all of Greece for over 25 years.

Hrisiktisia or "adverse possession" in Greece

"My aunt's sheep have grazed on my father's land for 20 years". There is a saying, a fool and his money are often parted". The same goes for land in Greece. You cannot sleep on your rights. In brief, if someone in Greece fences, controls, holds, cultivates and possesses your property for 20 years or more, they can file to get title to it. There are many ways to prevent this and to defend against such actions. When we defend these "hrisiktisia" cases, we focus on challenging the requirements of "continuous" "adverse" and "hostile" and have won many such cases in the last 25 years. Also, the law provides additional burdens and requirements for relative co-owners of land, before they can claim hrisiktisia.

A Tale of Two Lawsuits (Article by Attorney George Kounoupis)

In a tale of two cities, by Charles Dickens, there is a quote "It was the best time, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness......it was the season of hope, it was the winter of despair". To a small business, one in which the owners have scraped together their hopes and dreams, their children's future, a litigation and lawsuit can be all of these things. I grew up with lessons in economics taught by my Greek father. In the 1960's he and my mother, a nurse for IKA in Sparta, left for the United States to set up a restaurant business, joining my uncles.

Hahalis & Kounoupis, P.C. - Greek Law Group
Phone: 610-628-1336
Toll Free: 877-509-4333
Fax: 610-691-8418

U.S. Offices:
20 East Broad Street 
Bethlehem, PA 18018
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New Jersey
1015 New Durham Road
Edison, NJ 08817
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Greece Offices:
18 Valaoritou Street
4th Floor
Athens, 10671
Greece
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10 Ermou Street
Thessaloniki, 54625
Greece
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Hahalis & Kounoupis, P.C. - Greek Law Group