Friday, 6 June 2008

EU TFEU: Prohibited remissions, repayments and countervailing charges

According to Article 112 of the EU Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Council could, for a limited period, approve remissions and repayments in respect of exports to other member states or countervailing charges in respect of imports from member states. Otherwise they are prohibited.

As far as I know, exceptions concerning these forms of direct taxes on the basis of current Article 92 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) have never been granted, so the prohibition has stood unassailed.

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Article 112 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is found in the consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, published in the Official Journal of the European Union, OJ 9.5.2008 C 115/93:

Part Three ‘Union policies and internal actions’

Title VII Common rules on competition, taxation and approximation of laws

Chapter 2 Tax provisions

Article 112 TFEU
(ex Article 92 TEC)

In the case of charges other than turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation, remissions and repayments in respect of exports to other Member States may not be granted and countervailing charges in respect of imports from Member States may not be imposed unless the measures contemplated have been previously approved for a limited period by the Council on a proposal from the Commission.

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In Article 2, point 78 of the Treaty of Lisbon (ToL) the IGC 2007 amended Article 88 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) and in point 79 it dealt with Article 93 TEC. This means that no specific amendments were made to Article 92 TEC. Cf. OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/69.

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The TFEU table of equivalences tells us that Article 92 TEC first became Article 92 TFEU (ToL) in the original Treaty of Lisbon, but later renumbered Article 112 TFEU in the consolidated version (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/211).

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The current Article 92 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) is found under Title VI ‘Common rules on competition, taxation and approximation of laws’, Chapter 2 ‘Tax provisions’, in the latest consolidated version of the treaties in force (OJ 29.12.2006 C 321 E/79).

Although thee was no specific amendment, we notice the disappearance of the words ‘acting by a qualified majority’ from Article 112 TFEU according to horizontal amendment 2(d) of Article 2 of the Treaty of Lisbon (OJ 17.12.2007 C 306/41), when we look at the wording of Article 92 TEC:

Article 92 TEC

In the case of charges other than turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation, remissions and repayments in respect of exports to other Member States may not be granted and countervailing charges in respect of imports from Member States may not be imposed unless the measures contemplated have been previously approved for a limited period by the Council acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission.

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We have now seen that 92 TEC in force and 112 TFUE are the same, except for one horizontal amendment. .

Still, for the sake of systematic comparison, we look at the arcana of the Article during the intervening treaty reform stages.

First, we turn to the European Convention, the closest thing to a constituent assembly EU citizens have had. The Article in question is located in Part III ‘The policies and functioning of the Union’, Title III ‘Internal policies and action’, Chapter I ‘Internal market’, Section 6 ‘Fiscal provisions’.

Article III-61 of the draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe differed from Article 92 TEC slightly, without altering the substance. The word ‘measures’ was replaced by ‘provisions’, the act of approval was categorised as ‘by a European decision’ and the draft Constitution consistently used ‘Council of Ministers’ instead of ‘Council’ (OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/38):

Article III-61 Draft Constitution

In the case of charges other than turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation, remissions and repayments in respect of exports to other Member States may not be granted and countervailing charges in respect of imports from Member States may not be imposed unless the provisions contemplated have been previously approved for a limited period by a European decision adopted by the Council of Ministers on a proposal from the Commission.

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In the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe the tax provisions were located in Part III ‘The policies and functioning of the Union’, Title III ‘Internal policies and action’, Chapter I ‘Internal market’, Section 6 ‘Fiscal provisions’.

The IGC 2004 created Article III-170 with three paragraphs by housing Articles III-59, III-60 and III-61 of the draft Constitution under the same roof (OJ 16.12.2004 C 310/73. Cf. OJ 18.7.2003 C 169/37–38).

Article III-170(3) of the Constitutional Treaty was the same as Article III-61 of the draft Constitution, except for the ‘Council’ reappearing in shorter form:

Article III-170 Constitution

1. No Member State shall impose, directly or indirectly, on the products of other Member States any internal taxation of any kind in excess of that imposed directly or indirectly on similar domestic products.

Furthermore, no Member State shall impose on the products of other Member States any internal taxation of such a nature as to afford indirect protection to other products.

2. Where products are exported by a Member State to the territory of another Member State, any repayment of internal taxation shall not exceed the internal taxation imposed on them whether directly or indirectly.

3. In the case of charges other than turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation, remissions and repayments in respect of exports to other Member States may not be granted and countervailing charges in respect of imports from Member States may not be imposed unless the provisions contemplated have been previously approved for a limited period by a European decision adopted by the Council on a proposal from the Commission.

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What has anyone been able to say about Article 112 TFEU, with the wording practically unchanged from the current Article 92 TEC?


United Kingdom

Professor Steve Peers covered the Treaty of Lisbon in a number of Statewatch Analyses. ‘EU Reform Treaty Analysis no. 3.3: Revised text of Part Three, Titles I to VI of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC): Internal Market and competition’ (Version 2, 23 October 2007) includes the current Title VI Common rules on competition, taxation and approximation of laws.

Peers indicated the changing numbering of Article 92 TEC and TFEU (ToL), to be renumbered Article 112 TFEU in the consolidated version, without comment (page 29).

The analysis 3.3 and other useful Statewatch analyses are available through:

http://www.statewatch.org/euconstitution.htm


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The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) offers a convenient source of brief annotations on Lisbon Treaty amendments in ‘A comparative table of the current EC and EU treaties as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon’ (Command Paper 7311, published 21 January 2008). It offers the following comment on Article 112 TFEU, Article 92 TFEU (ToL) in the original Lisbon Treaty (page 12):

“Unchanged from Article 92 TEC.”

The FCO comparative table is available at:

http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm73/7311/7311.asp

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The UK House of Commons Library Research Paper 07/86 ‘The Treaty of Lisbon: amendments to the Treaty establishing the European Community’ (published 6 December 2007) discussed taxation on page 60 (although the heading ‘2. Taxation’ continued with (tax) harmonisation from page 60 to 61).

Having found at least one general comment in English, we gratefully reproduce the text on Articles 90 to 93 TFEU (ToL), later renumbered Articles 110 to 113 TFEU in the consolidated version:

“Articles 90–93 (Constitution Articles III-170 – III-171) concern taxation. They incorporate the existing tax provisions set out in Articles 90 to 93 TEC. There is a considerable body of European law concerning the harmonisation across Member States of indirect taxes: that is, VAT and excise duties on alcoholic drinks, hydrocarbon oils and tobacco products. At present the Treaty base for this legislation is Article 93 TEC, which states:

The Council shall, acting unanimously on a proposal from the Commission and after consulting the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee, adopt provisions for the harmonisation of legislation concerning turnover taxes, excise duties and other forms of indirect taxation to the extent that such harmonisation is necessary to ensure the establishment and the functioning of the internal market within the time limit laid down in Article 14. (122)

The new Article 93 (Constitution Article III-171) has one substantive change. Legislation for harmonising indirect taxes may be adopted (emphasis added) “provided that such harmonisation is necessary for the establishment or the functioning of the internal market and to avoid distortion of competition.” It remains the case that any such legislation must be agreed by the Council acting unanimously.”

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Footnote 122 stated: Article 14 refers to the establishment of the single European market on 1 January 1993.
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The Library Research Paper 07/86 is available at:

http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/rp2007/rp07-086.pdf

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The House of Lords European Union Committee report ‘The Treaty of Lisbon: an impact assessment, Volume I: Report’ (HL Paper 62-I, published 13 March 2008) is a valuable resource on the Treaty of Lisbon, but I found no reference to Article 112 TFEU (Article 92 TEC and ToL).

The report is accessible at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldeucom/62/62.pdf

In case anyone wants to dig deeper, taxes, unanimity and harmonisation are discussed ‘passim’ in Volume II of the report ‘Evidence’.


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Sweden

The consultation paper ’Lissabonfördraget’ is still valuable as a description of the Lisbon Treaty amendments, and it is available at:

http://www.regeringen.se/content/1/c6/09/49/81/107aa077.pdf

The Swedish government’s draft ratification bill ‘Lagrådsremiss – Lissabonfördraget’, was published 29 May 2008 and sent to the Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) for an expert opinion. The draft deals with the EU’s internal policy areas in Chapter 23 ‘Unionens interna åtgärder’, and section 23.1 presents the internal market (Inre marknaden), on pages 175 to 181.

Tax provisions are dealt with on page 179 in a section called ‘Bestämmelser om skatter’. The government of Sweden remarks on the essentially unchanged nature of the tax provisions in general and it then explains the clarification of Article 93 TFEU (ToL):

”Bestämmelser om skatter

Bestämmelserna om skatter är i princip oförändrade. I artikel 93 i EUF-fördraget om harmonisering av lagstiftningen om omsättningsskatter, punktskatter och andra indirekta skatter eller avgifter på den inre marknaden görs ett förtydligande. Som nödvändig förutsättning för att harmonisera lagstiftning anges som tillägg “att undvika snedvridning av konkurrensen”. Rådet ska, i likhet med nu gällande EG-fördrag, fatta beslut med enhällighet i skattefrågor efter att ha hört Europaparlamentet. (Se artikel 2.79 i Lissabonfördraget.)”

The draft bill ‘Lagrådsremiss – Lissabonfördraget’ can be downloaded through:

http://www.regeringen.se/sb/d/5676/a/106277

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Finland

The Finnish ratification bill, ‘Hallituksen esitys Eduskunnalle Euroopan unionista tehdyn sopimuksen ja Euroopan yhteisön perustamissopimuksen muuttamisesta tehdyn Lissabonin sopimuksen hyväksymisestä ja laiksi sen lainsäädännön alaan kuuluvien määräysten voimaansaattamisesta’ (HE 23/2008 vp), under the heading Provisions on taxes and charges (Veroja ja maksuja koskevat määräykset), offers a brief statement on the unchanged nature of Article 92 TFEU (ToL), renumbered Article 112 TFEU (page 208):

”92 artiklaa (uusi 112 artikla), jonka mukaan välillisistä veroista ei vapauteta tai niitä ei palauteta jäsenvaltiosta toiseen tapahtuvan maastaviennin yhteydessä ilman neuvoston määräaikaisia toimenpiteitä koskevaa päätöstä, ei muuteta.”

The Finnish ratification bill is available at:

http://www.finlex.fi/fi/esitykset/he/2008/20080023.pdf


The Swedish language version of the ratification bill ‘Regeringens proposition till Riksdagen med förslag om godkännande av Lissabonfördraget om ändring av fördraget om Europeiska unionen och fördraget om upprättandet av Europeiska gemenskapen och till lag om sättande i kraft av de bestämmelser i fördraget som hör till området för lagstiftningen’ (RP 23/2008 rd), makes the same remark under ’Bestämmelser om skatter och avgifter’ on the unchanged nature of Article 92 TFEU (ToL), the future Article 112 TFEU, on page 211:

”Artikel 92 (blivande artikel 112), enligt vilken befrielse och återbetalning i fråga om indirekta skatter vid export till andra medlemsstater inte får medges utan att rådet beslutar om åtgärder för en begränsad tid, ändras inte.”

The ratification bill in Swedish can be accessed at:

http://www.finlex.fi/sv/esitykset/he/2008/20080023.pdf

My comment: Here the drafters of the Finnish government bill seem to have made a mistake, missing the meaning of ‘other than’ the forms of indirect taxation mentioned, which translates into charges of a direct, not an indirect, nature.


Ralf Grahn