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Commission Launches Tax Investigation Into French Port Reform

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

13 April 2009


The European Commission has announced the launch of a detailed investigation to check whether measures France wishes to adopt under its port reform program are compatible with the community rules on state aid. The Commission statement notes that at this stage, it considers that the mechanism for transferring port handling activities to private operators and the tax arrangements applicable to transferred equipment could involve state aid which is incompatible with the common market. The investigation will enable all the interested parties to submit their comments.

In December 2008 France notified a number of measures under its port reform program, which is aimed at improving the performance and competitiveness of France's seaports. The autonomous ports which are intended to become major seaports must have their tasks redefined accordingly and their governance must be modernised, said the government.

The reform entails transferring handling operations to private operators under a procedure for handing over public equipment. According to the Commission, it appears at this stage that the procedure may favour certain operators by not guaranteeing that the public assets in question are sold at the market price.

The transfer of handling equipment is accompanied by the introduction of tax arrangements under which the private operators taking over the equipment will pay less tax. The Commission wishes to clarify whether these tax reductions are compatible with the common market and, in particular, with the guidelines on regional state aid for the period 2007-13.

According to the Commission: "Launching the detailed investigation will enable the Commission to examine thoroughly the exact nature of all these measures and their implementing rules in the light of the treaty requirements on state aid, will enable all the interested parties to express their point of view, and is without prejudice to the final decision which the Commission will adopt."


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