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Netherlands Begins Legal Challenge To German Road Tax

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

13 December 2017


The Netherlands has joined Austria in issuing a legal challenge to Germany's road charging scheme at the European Court of Justice.

The Dutch Government announced its decision to bring a case before the ECJ on December 13, arguing that the road tax rules as they stand breach European Union law and unfairly discriminate against Dutch residents using German roads.

Designed to raise EUR500m (USD588m) in additional revenue for the upkeep of Germany's road network, the new toll system comprises a number of different charges depending on a vehicle's environmental standards and the length of time it uses roads subject to the charging scheme.

The annual charge will start at EUR67, rising to EUR130, with users of vehicles with the lowest emissions paying less. Vehicles entering Germany from other countries will have the option of buying short-term passes, starting at EUR2.50 for 10 days and rising to EUR50 for two months.

However, the scheme, which is due to begin in 2019, is controversial because road users resident in Germany will see a corresponding reduction in their annual car tax

The Dutch Government says that, effectively, as a result of this deduction, only motorists with foreign-registered vehicles will be required to pay the tax, therefore representing a barrier to the freedom of movement, which is guaranteed under EU treaties.

The Netherlands also argues that the charge will unfairly discriminate against Dutch residents living close to the German border who use the country's roads on a regular basis. It has estimated that Dutch motorists will pay EUR60-100m on the German tolls each year.

Austria filed proceedings against the charging scheme at the ECJ on similar grounds in October 2017.

The charging scheme has also attracted the attention on the European Commission, which in June 2015 initiated formal infringement proceedings against Germany over the proposals.

However, these proceedings were put on hold after the Commission reached an agreement with the German Government in December 2016, which was intended to allow for a better differentiation of the road charge on the basis of environmental criteria.

The Dutch Government said that a ruling on the scheme is not expected from the ECJ before 2019.

TAGS: environment | tax | European Commission | Netherlands | law | travel and tourism | Austria | Germany | standards | Europe

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