Brussels, 21 June 2012
European Commission calls on Portugal to change its excise duty rules for cigarettes
The European Commission has officially asked Portugal to change its excise duty rules related to the marketing of cigarettes.
In Portugal, a time limit for the sale of cigarettes is set down, linked to the fiscal stamp on the packaging. Cigarettes cannot be sold any later than 3 months after the end of the year that they are released for consumption.
Under EU law (Directive 2008/118/EC), excise duty on tobacco products must be charged at the rate applicable on the date on which they are released for consumption. There is no provision under EU legislation which allows Member States to add supplementary duty to this release-date tax rate, or to limit the distribution of tobacco products for fiscal reasons.
The Portuguese sales-and-marketing prohibition is clearly disproportionate to any fraud-tackling objective.
It also runs contrary to the provisions of Directive 2008/118/EC, under which Member States must ensure that tax markings do not create obstacles to the free movement of excise goods.
The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion (second step of EU infringement proceedings). If the rules are not brought into compliance within two months, the Commission may refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.
For press releases issued on infringement proceedings in the area of taxation or customs see: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/common/infringements/infringement_cases/index_en.htm
For more information on EU infringement procedures, see MEMO/12/464
For the most up-to-date general information on the infringement proceedings initiated against Member States, see:
Emer Traynor (+32 2 292 15 48)