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Brussels, 6 May 2008

Commission takes steps against Spain regarding the application of a non EU-harmonized excise duty on mineral oils

The European Commission has formally notified Spain that the excise duty, so called "Impuesto Especial sobre las Ventas Minoristas de Determinados Hidrocarburos", fails to comply with Community Law. The notification takes the form of a reasoned opinion (second step of the infringement procedure provided for in Article 226 of the EC Treaty). If the relevant national provisions are not aligned with Community Law within two months, the Commission may decide to refer this matter to the European Court of Justice.

Excise duties on mineral oils are harmonised at EU level and are applied by all Member States. Directive 92/12/EEC,[1] article 3(2), provides the possibility for products that are already subject to EU harmonised excise duties, to be also subject to other indirect taxes for specific purposes and under certain defined conditions.

Spain, in addition to the EU harmonised excise duty on mineral oils ("Impuesto sobre Hidrocarburos"), applies the "Impuesto sobre las ventas minoristas de determinados hidrocarburos" (IVMDH), a tax on motor fuels sold at petrol stations. The rate of the tax is, within certain limits determined by Spain’s autonomous regions. The revenue is allegedly used to finance the health care system (a responsibility largely devolved to the regions).

The Commission has taken the view that the IVMDH does not fully comply with the requirements set up in Article 3(2) of Directive 92/12/EEC for the following reasons. First, chargeability of the IVDMH is not aligned with that of the harmonised excise duty, since it does not take place at the moment where the products leave the last tax warehouse but at a later stage, when the relevant products are sold to the purchaser in the petrol station.

Second, Article 3(2) of Directive 92/12/EEC requires that any other indirect tax on mineral oils must pursue a "specific purpose". The EC Court has already understood that a "specific purpose", in this context, is "a purpose other than a budgetary one".

The Commission takes the view that the main objective of the tax is to strengthen the autonomy of the regions by providing them with the means to generate tax income. This, according to the criteria of the EC Court, cannot be considered as a "specific purpose" required by the Directive.

For these reasons, the Commission has formally requested Spain to bring its national legislation in line with Community Law by means of a reasoned opinion.

The Commission's reference number is 2002/2315.

For the latest information on infringement proceedings, go to:

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

[1] Council Directive 92/12/EEC of 25 February 1992 on the general arrangements for products subject to excise duty and on the holding, movement and monitoring of such products.

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