Brussels, 14 March 2011
The European Commission has formally requested the UK to amend its rules on local real estate taxes for students, on the basis that they discriminate against students subject to UK council taxes but studying in another Member State. The Commission considers that these discriminatory provisions are in breach of EU law on the free movement of people and dissuade students from exercising their rights to study in another EU country. The request takes the form of a "Reasoned Opinion" (the second step of an infringement procedure). In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months, the Commission may refer the UK to the EU's Court of Justice.
Under the UK's community taxes legislation, students who reside in the UK and decide to pursue their education in England or Wales are entitled to a discount in community real estate taxes. However, this discount is not granted to students subject to tax in the UK but studying in another Member State.
The Commission considers that these rules discriminate against students living in the UK who choose to undertake their studies elsewhere in the EU, and to restrict their right to move and reside freely within the EU as provided by Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Such discriminatory treatment of students also undermines EU efforts to promote student mobility between Member States such as distance learning programmes.
The Commission does not see any possible justification for this discrimination.
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For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/11/162