Dear Santorini Brides, Grooms, Wedding Planners, Photographers, Hair and MUA, Bands and Suppliers from all over the world,

Can UK wedding photographers legally work in Santorini? The very quick answer is a unequivocal ‘YES’.

Oia at sunset [Indie Film Lab].

Over the past 2 years there has been loads of chatter on social media about who can work in Santorini? Sounds fairly simple doesn’t? Last time I checked Santorini was one of the Greek Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea which is firmly within EU membership so it stands to reason that if like myself you are either from the UK or another EU country you are free to work unhindered in any other EU member country.

I first photographed a wedding in Santorini in 2015 and like many people who travel to the island for the first time they are blown away with the beauty of it and vow to return, some choosing to get married with their best friends and family on the island. This past year I have been lucky enough to travel to Santorini to photograph two amazing weddings for incredible people who had fallen in love with the island and its people, food and stunning scenery. In 2016 whilst planning my 2017 Santorini wedding travel logistics I first became aware of UK photographers saying that wedding planners have told their bride and grooms that due to tax inspections now happening regularly on venues that only local photographers would be hired that were paying Greek taxes.

It wasn’t a single instance either. I have numerous accounts of photographers now being told by their bride that they could no longer photograph the wedding becasue of the new rules in place by venues due to tax laws. In fact the information being recieved was so random and inconsistant that no one seemed to actually know what the truth was. My couples planner was also informing me that I would need to be registered to pay tax in Greece and have proof of this. I know of UK photographers that were scared off by this and thought it too much hassle so they declined to do the work, I also know of more than one couple that cancelled their entire Santorini wedding and got married in the UK instead as they felt they couldnt have the wedding they wanted in Greece and then there are the majority of couples that took the wedding planners words and hired a local Greek photographer as recommended by their planner.

So why was this misinformation being spread around the industry? It’s not just the Greek wedding planners telling this story but the UK wedding planners also.

Here are some quotes in correspondance from a UK planner to their UK client –

‘you/they must be aware that in Santorini  in particular  the wedding venues will NOT allow  any suppliers not registered in Greece  and therefore paying tax in GREECE – which venue are they looking at ??’

‘It will depend on the venue – it is the same in Zante  for sure – Skiathos up till now if OK – Crete and Rhodes also OK  – Cyprus is fine  but not all the hotels. They may all decide  to do the same this year though as the Tax people are more and more strict and  are forever checking the venues and they could loose their license so will definitely not allow it’

Here’s a quote from 2016 from a highly sought after Santorini venue, Le Ciel –

‘we have the same policy on that issue as on the other venues. Please bear in mind that IKA inspection committees are coming all the time on the venue and in case they found someone that is provide services without been insured, the fine is 10.500 euros. Unfortunately you may inform the travel agent that they have to hire a local photographer or the photographer should come in Greece a few days in advance in order to issue a Greek VAT number and then we will be able to hire him on the venue for the day.’

A quote from a Greek wedding planner –

‘Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is not yet complete you are indeed free to work in Greece however, you will still need to be registered here. This is not a new law. This has always been the case but venues were willing to risk having people work without a license because the site visits from the tax office were scarce and the fine was €1000. In the last two years control visits from the tax office in venues, hotels and restaurants in Santorini are daily and the fine is €11,000. In this case we will have to “hire” you for a day. This means that you will have to be in Santorini two working days (Monday-Friday) before the wedding and go to the Social security office with one of the staff of our accounts office and complete the procedure by registering for a vat and social security number.

This procedure costs €350 which includes:

–       Accountant’s fee

–       Social security fee

–       Greek tax

–       Various administration costs and

–       The social security that we have to pay (in Greece all employees are entitled to paid leave and a kind of “bonus” for Christmas and Easter; fees which are paid by the employers and apply regardless of how long one is employed for.)

Hope this all makes sense. We understand that this might complicate things a little but neither xxxxxxxx, nor xxxxxxx will allow someone to work there without these papers.’

It appeared all planners had either closed ranks or someone somewhere was giving out false information as it wasnt consistant nor legal within the EU to make these stipulations.

So what were the reasons for doing this? There’s only one answer and that is MONEY. This was devised as a way to keep out non Greek suppliers on what is a massive wedding industry in Greece and especially Santorini. The way it works is that the wedding planners and venues get a cut or commission (quite rightly so) when they pass work or hire another supplier so its in their interest for any given wedding to hire all of the suppliers and not allow the couple to hire any independently as then they recieve zero commission.

I believe the root of this misinformation was real and that was the fact that after the Greek crisis then IKA (Greek Social Security) started doing regular inspections on Greek premises and especially Santorini premises. So who are IKA? IKA (pronounced Mika without the M!) is the largest Social Security Organisation in Greece and amongst other benefits provides the pension fund. The Greek pension reform in 2016 likely has much to do with increased inspections. IKA is not concerned with Greek income tax or VAT but is concerned with the Greek social security payments of Greek employees. IKA is equivalent to the NI (National Insurance) that we pay in the UK. It confuses things when IKA is referred to as tax because we dont necessarily refer to NI as tax in the UK.

So what IS required by a UK person to legally work in Greece and especially Santorini? You can see the advice I recieved is very off putting and would likely mean we wouldnt be able to work again in Santorini if this was all true.

Lets base this on my status as a UK citizen:

As a British citizen I should be able to supply services in another EU country without having to comply with all of that country’s administrative procedures and rules (like obtaining prior authorisation to do business). But you may need to notify the public authorities that you will be offering services in their country. [NB although we are part of the EU individual countries may have differing requirements] Full explanation here: http://europa.eu/youreurope/business/sell-abroad/service-providers/index_en.htm

For Greece as a UK citizen we should complete and apply for an A1 form from HMRC – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-insurance-application-for-form-e101-if-self-employed-in-european-economic-area-ca3837

The most important point as to why you do not need to be paying Greek taxes and social security is that you are NOT AN EMPLOYEE in Greece. In my case I am a freelancer and I am working for myself even though i have a contract and am paid by the bride and groom.

If as suggested above i was to be hired by the Greek wedding planner or venue and be paid by them then yes i would be an employee and all the points made by the planners would be true and no one except the local Greeks would bother photographing weddings in Santorini as it would be too much hassle and too expensive! And no one would want that to happen would they?

Most EU countries use Tax Identification Numbers (TINs) to identify taxpayers and facilitate the administration of their national tax affairs. TINs are also useful for identifying taxpayers who invest in other EU countries and are more reliable than other identifiers such as name and address. If you are registered self employed in the UK and have a UTR (equivalent to TIN) number then you can also demostrate you are registered for UK tax here – https://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/tin/

 

So what happened in the end? Could I legally work in Santorini? I went to Santorini as planned with my A1 form, liability insurance, contract, passport etc and all was fantastic. I wasnt an employee so there was zero risk of any venues being fined by IKA and of course i was 100% legally working in Greece.

My advice here is to anyone looking to be freelancing in Greece is to know that just because you are an EU citizen it doesn’t automatically make you 100% legal and give you the right to be working in Greece. Plan ahead and always carry your documents.

My advice here to wedding planners either in Greece or the UK or EU is to please take note that there are no restrictions on freelancers or suppliers being hired by the wedding couple. The ‘must be registered for Greek tax due to increased IKA inpections’ has run out of steam.

Venues, you have completely zero chance of IKA fining you for having a UK/EU freelancer (ie not an employee or hired and paid locally) on your property. You should of course check that the freelancer has the correct paperwork.

Some venues do know the rules and clearly have no issues with it, eg Santorini Gem. ‘Hello Paul, as per EU regulations, an English citizen has the right to work in Greece. What he needs to bring along is an A1 form that proves he is paying social security in the UK, so he does not have to be hired in Greece. He might ask that form from his Social Security Institution.’ If one venue knows the correct law then surely it makes major financial sense to be up to date in knowledge if only to prevent IKA fining them by unknowingly breaking laws.

 

I wanted to put this information down in one place to help others and provide a single link to all so that I dont keep having to type it out when people refer others to me for this information. Hopefully once this is out there the incidences of this will drop to zero and we all get a bite at the massive apple that is the Santorini wedding industry. There is plenty for everybody.

I genuinely do believe venues were scared of being fined in some capacity by IKA as I’ve heard similar accounts of this story, ‘just this week a hotel was fined €44,000 for 4 staff members who were present at the premises during IKA’s visit. They were due to start work next week and were being under training from the hotel owners. However this is considered as ‘work’ in the eyes of the law.’ I would also class this as work if they were employees on the premises.

After sharing this information with a UK wedding planner who was using they IKA as a reason not to use non Greek suppliers they return the following to me – ‘we have already decided that from 2018 onwards we will only accept bookings from couples booking all the suppliers with us’

Ahhh you gotta love business!

You can see my adventures in Santorini here, here and here!

Paul xx

 

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