Brussels, 24 June 2010
Taxation: the Commission refers France to the Court of Justice for infringing VAT and excise rules
The European Commission has decided to refer France to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failure to comply with Community rules on the super-reduced rate of VAT for first performances and for limiting the quantity of manufactured tobacco that can be purchased in other Member States.
Super-reduced rate of VAT for first performances
The reduced rates are an exception to the common system of VAT where, as a rule, rates below 5% are banned. However, as a temporary measure, Member States which on 1 January 1991 charged rates below 5% are allowed to keep them at this level, but may not apply the super-reduced rates to other, new areas. Until 1 January 2007 France applied a rate of 2.1% to tickets for the first 140 performances of theatre productions provided that no refreshments were served during the performance. This condition was scrapped following an amendment to legislation making this rate applicable to tickets for performances during which drinks could be served. However, broadening the scope of this super-reduced rate infringes the rules of the VAT Directive. France’s failure to take the measures needed to comply with European rules within the time limit has prompted the European Commission to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union (IP/09/1495).
Limits on the quantity of manufactured tobacco that may be purchased by EU private individuals
French legislation provides for strict limits on the quantities of manufactured tobacco that may be transported (1 kg) and held (2 kg) in France by private individuals who purchased it in other Member States. The Commission considers that this is not in line with the principle of free movement and with Directive 92/12/EEC under which private individuals are allowed to buy products subject to excise duty, such as manufactured tobacco, in another Member State and to transport them to another Member State without further taxes being levied. Of course, these products must be intended for own consumption and be transported by the private individuals themselves. Member States must take account of a number of criteria (and not the quantity alone) when determining whether the tobacco is for private consumption or is intended for sale. If the tobacco is intended for commercial purposes, the excise duty must be charged in the Member State in which the goods are held.
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