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Brussels, 21 December 2006

Car taxation: infringement procedures against Denmark and Finland

The Commission has sent Denmark and Finland formal requests to amend their rules concerning car registration taxes. These requests take the form of "reasoned opinions", the second stage of the infringement procedure laid down in Article 226 of the EC Treaty. As regards the case against Denmark, the way registration tax is calculated on foreign company cars and leasing cars made available to a person living in Denmark means that the total amount of the registration tax will have been paid in full after more or less eight years of registration, thus resulting in a taxation which is not proportionate to the duration of the registration of the vehicle in Denmark. The case against Finland concerns the lack of an explicit rule establishing that a person who will only be staying in Finland for a limited time should be exempt from registration tax for his or her vehicle. Moreover, the Commission decided to refer Finland to the Court of Justice on the rules that applies for registration tax on second-hand cars. The Commission considers that the rules used to calculate the registration tax levied on second-hand cars imported from other Member States discriminates against them in comparison with similar Finnish cars.


Denmark has enacted provisions making pro rata registration taxation possible where a Danish resident has either leased a car in another Member State or has been provided a company car by an employer established in another Member State.

The rate is 2 % per month of the full registration tax for 0-3 month old cars, 1 % per following month in the case of leasing and 3 % per quarter in the case of company cars. These rates imply that the total amount of the registration tax will have been paid in full after more or less eight years, thus resulting in a taxation which is not proportionate to the duration of the registration of the vehicle in Denmark, as requested by the EC Court of Justice. This conclusion is strengthened by the additional application of a periodical surtax on the remaining full registration tax.

In its judgment of 21 March 2002 in Case C-451/99, Cura Anlagen, the EC Court of Justice assessed an Austrian registration tax on vehicles similar to the Danish registration tax. It ruled that it was contrary to Article 49 EC (freedom to provide services) and to the principle of proportionality to levy in full a tax such as the Austrian one in cases where Austrian residents had leased a vehicle in another Member State. The aim which the tax pursues might in fact be achieved by introducing a tax proportionate to the duration of the registration of the vehicle in the State where it is used.

In its subsequent judgment of 15 September 2005 in Case C-464/02, Commission/Denmark, the Court found that in cases where a company car provided by an employer established in another Member State to its employee resident in Denmark for business purposes or for business and private purposes is used essentially in Denmark on a permanent basis, the situation is comparable to the one at issue in the Cura Anlagen case.


1. Definition of normal residence

Under the Finnish legislation a person staying in Finland to carry out a task of definite duration cannot be certain that he or she will benefit from the right of car registration tax exemption that he or she is entitled to according to the Council Directive 83/182/EEC[1]. Moreover, the possibility of a tax exemption under current Finnish law is limited to 18 months.

The definition of "normal residence" used in Finland does not account for the case where a person is living in the Member State in order to carry out a task of definite duration and therefore should be able to import his or her car without paying tax during that period according to Article 7 of the Directive mentioned above.

The Commission sent a formal letter of notice to Finland in April 2006 and received an unsatisfactory reply in June 2006.

2. Registration tax on second-hand cars

Following the judgment of the Court of Justice of 19 September 2002 in case C-101/00 (Siilin), Finland has introduced a number of amendments to the country's legislation concerning registration tax. However, two points are still not in compliance with Community law.

First, the depreciation rate applied when calculating the tax for the first six months after the car's registration (which amounts to 0.8% per month) does not correspond to the economic reality. This rule infringes Article 90 of the EC Treaty as it applies a higher registration tax on second-hand cars imported from other Members than on similar Finnish cars.

The Court of Justice has ruled that under Article 90 of the EC Treaty Member States will always have to ensure that the tax levied on cars from other Member States does not exceed the tax still incorporated in similar cars already registered in the country. If a Member State opts for a system with a fixed depreciation rate, the rate applied has to be established in such a manner that there will be no such discrimination.

Furthermore, under Finnish legislation VAT taxable persons are allowed to deduct the tax levied on registration (which in the judgment by the Court of Justice mentioned above was not considered to be VAT). However, under Article 17 of the Council's Sixth VAT Directive, only VAT is deductible. In this respect, therefore, the Finnish legislation is not in line with Community rules concerning value added tax.

The Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Finland in July 2006, (IP/06/918), but since the reply it received in September 2006 was not satisfactory, the Commission decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice.

Commission cases' reference numbers are 2005/4925 (Denmark/leasing) and 2006/2240 (Denmark/company cars), 2006/4144 (Finland/ residence) and 2001/2091 (Finland/second-hand cars).

New: For the press releases issued on infringement procedures in the taxation or customs area see:

For the latest general information on infringement measures against Member States see:

[1] Council Directive 83/182/EEC of 28 March 1983 on tax exemptions within the Community for certain means of transport temporarily imported into one Member State from another Member State.

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