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IP/02/1302

Brussels, 16 September 2002

Vehicle taxation : the Commission takes Greece to the Court of Justice

The European Commission has decided to refer Greece to the Court of Justice over its tax scheme applied to vehicles registered in other Member States and used temporarily in Greece by residents of other Member States. The Commission considers taxation of this category of vehicles contrary to Directive 83/182/EEC which, in order to eliminate obstacles to free movement, requires the application of tax exemptions on the temporary import into one Member State of certain means of transport used for private and professional purposes in another. The Commission also considers the severe penalties provided for by the Greek legislation in the event of non-compliance with certain procedures regarding the temporary use of the vehicle to be incompatible with Community law. The Court of Justice previously stated in a judgment concerning Greece that any fine imposed as a result of unauthorised tax-free import under the temporary import scheme established by Directive 83/182 must be in proportion to the gravity of the infringement and justified by the overriding requirements of enforcement and prevention.

Greece applies a scheme to owners of vehicles registered in other Member States which requires immediate payment of registration taxes as if the vehicle were in permanent use in Greece. This requirement is backed up by heavy and disproportionate fines, regular seizures, confiscations and auction sales of vehicles, prosecutions for smuggling and severe penalties. There is also a presumption extremely difficult to rebut, especially for a non-resident of Greek origin that the normal residence is in Greece, so that the vehicle will be subject to Greek taxes even if the person concerned changed residence several years ago.

The Commission considers the application of an immediate payment to be a breach of Article 1 of Directive 83/182/EEC which exempts "temporary" (i.e. for a period, continuous or otherwise, of not more than six months in any twelve months) imports from another Member State of motor-driven road vehicles from turnover tax, excise duties and any other consumption tax provided that the individual importing such goods has his normal residence in a Member State other than the Member State of temporary importation.

As regards the penalties, the Court of Justice already ruled in Paraskevas Louloudakis and Elliniko Dimosio versus the Greek Government (Case C-262/99) that national legislation which provides for a series of penalties in the event of infringement of the temporary importation arrangements laid down by Directive 83/182, is compatible with the principle of proportionality only in so far as it is made necessary by overriding requirements of enforcement and prevention, when the gravity of the infringement is taken into account.

The Greek authorities have failed to comply with the formal request to amend their legislation and practices (in the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty), sent by the Commission on 29 November 2000.

General information on infringement proceedings against the Member States is available on the following site:

http://ec.europa.eu/secretariat_general/sgb/droit_com/index_en.htm


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