Car taxes get Greece in EU court

The European Commission yesterday said it was referring Greece to the European Court for levying high taxes on the residents of other EU states who bring their cars into the country, and imposing heavy punishment on offenders. A Commission announcement noted that Athens requires owners of vehicles registered in other EU countries and used temporarily in Greece to immediately pay registration taxes as if the vehicle were in permanent use in Greece. Under EU Directive 83/182/EEC, temporary imports – of no more than six months in any 12 months – of motor vehicles by individuals normally resident in another EU country are exempt from taxes and excise duties. The Commission said Greece’s approach to such vehicles is «contrary to Directive 83/182/EEC,» meant to eliminate obstacles to free movement within the Union. It added that the «severe» penalties imposed – «heavy and disproportionate fines,» confiscations, vehicle auctions and prosecution for smuggling – on people violating the law «is incompatible with Community law.» Greece was cautioned on the matter two years ago, but took no action.

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