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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 17 October 2013

Commission goes to Court to make Belgium apply tax exemptions granted to Union institutions

The European Commission considers that Belgium is not complying fully with the provisions in the Union's Protocol on Privileges and Immunities, and has decided to refer the matter to the Court of Justice.

Since the adoption of the Orders on the organisation of the electricity and gas market in the Brussels Capital Region, invoices for electricity and gas consumption in the buildings occupied by the institutions in Brussels have included the taxes laid down in these Orders.

In the Commission's view, under the provisions governing the tax exemptions set out in the Protocol, the institutions cannot be required to pay these taxes. Article 3, second paragraph, of the Protocol states that the institutions are exempted from indirect taxes or sales taxes by the governments of the Member States in which they are established when they make substantial purchases for their official use.

The Commission does not agree with the Belgian Government on this matter and considers that these regional taxes are indirect taxes covered by this exemption.

The purpose of the exemption is to prevent a Member State hosting an institution on its territory from benefiting from this and obtaining a tax advantage by imposing taxes that are financed by all the Member States' contributions to the EU budget, which is not justifiable in the eyes of European taxpayers.

In parallel with this infringement procedure, legal proceedings were brought under Belgian law in 2011 calling for the application of the exemption and the refunding of the amounts already paid by all the institutions. This case is still pending before the Belgian courts.

Background

The Commission sent Belgium a reasoned opinion in February 2012. In its reply in April 2012, Belgium maintained its position and refused the exemption. The reference number of the infringement procedure is 2008/2170.

More information on infringement procedures:

http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/index_en.htm

On the September infringement package decisions: : MEMO/13/907

Contacts :

Marilyn Carruthers (+32 2 299 94 51)

Antonio Gravili (+32 2 295 43 17)


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