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Key facts of the case:

VAT — Directive 2006/112/EC — Validity and interpretation — Services provided by lawyers — Non-exemption from VAT — Access to justice — Right to assistance by a lawyer — Equality of arms — Legal aid

Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

  1. In the light of all the foregoing considerations, I am of the opinion that the Court should answer the questions raised by the Cour constitutionnelle (Constitutional Court, Belgium) to the following effect:

    (1) On a proper construction of Article 371 of Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 on the common system of value added tax, a Member State which, in accordance with that provision, has continued to exempt the supply of services by lawyers from VAT, may limit the scope of that exemption without abolishing it in its entirety. However, having once abolished the exemption in its entirety, such a Member State may not reintroduce the same exemption with a more limited scope.

    (2) Neither Article 132(1)(g) nor any other provision of Directive 2006/112 authorises Member States to exempt from VAT the supply of services by lawyers under a national legal aid scheme as services which are closely linked to welfare and social security work.

    (3) Examination of the questions referred has disclosed nothing capable of affecting the validity of Directive 2006/112.