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European Commission – Press Release

Taxation: the Commission refers France to the Court of Justice over VAT on ships

Brussels, 29 September 2011 – The Commission has decided to bring an action before the Court of Justice concerning the VAT exemption applied by France to certain transactions involving vessels in breach of EU law.

The VAT Directive provides for exemptions from VAT, under certain conditions, on supplies of goods for fuelling and provisioning ships used for navigation on the high seas and on the supply, modification, repair, maintenance, chartering and hiring of such vessels.

French legislation and administrative practice, however, go beyond what is laid down in the Directive, applying the VAT exemption to vessels carrying passengers for reward or used for the purpose of commercial activities, without requiring them to be used for navigation on the high seas.

The Commission officially called on France to amend its legislation within a two‑month time limit in March 2010 (IP/10/296). This request took the form of a ‘reasoned opinion’, which constitutes the second stage of infringement proceedings. Within two months of the reasoned opinion being issued, no amendment had been made to French legislation on the matter.


France's General Tax Code was amended on 1 January 2011 so as to include the condition of use for navigation on the high seas. This condition is not actually applied by France, given the administrative interpretation published on 22 February 2011 authorising the rules previously applied to be maintained.

Background information

For the press releases issued on infringement proceedings in the area of taxation or customs see:

For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/646

For the most up-to-date general information on the infringement proceedings initiated against Member States, see:

Contacts :

David Boublil (+32 2 296 55 73)

Natasja Bohez Rubiano (+32 2 296 64 70)

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