Just days after the Council of State ruled that the government was wrong to cut the wages of army officers and policemen last year, the coalition is facing another legal complication as Supreme Court judges have ruled that the emergency property tax, introduced in 2011 and levied through electricity bills, was unconstitutional.
The decision, which was taken by the court’s fourth section after three judges voted for and two against, is not final. The Supreme Court’s plenary will have to convene to pass final judgment. This could take as long as three months.
The justices rejected an appeal by the Finance Ministry against a 2012 first instance court ruling that deemed the tax illegal.
The judges deemed that the tax contravened several articles of the Constitution, particularly because its charges were based upon the size of people’s property and not on their income and ability to pay. According to the justices, this damaged taxpayers’ ability to have a respectable standard of living.
In 2013, the emergency levy was incorporated into a wider property tax, so the Supreme Court’s ruling challenges the first two years that it applied.
Should the court’s plenary session result in the fourth section’s verdict being upheld, this will lead to further legal developments. The Council of State has already deemed the tax legal, although it ruled last year that it was unconstitutional for taxpayers to have their electricity cut off if they did not pay the tax. This means that a Supreme Special Court would have to sit to adjudicate on the judges’ rulings and give a final verdict.