Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling: Trimeles Dioikitiko Protodikeio Irakleiou - Greece.
Directive 83/182/EEC - Means of transport temporarily imported - Tax exemptions - Normal residence in a Member State - Fine for improperly importing exempt from tax - Principle of proportionality - Good faith.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, THE COURT (Sixth Chamber), in answer to the questions referred to it by the Trimeles Diikitiko Protodikio Irakliou by judgment of 30 June 1999, hereby rules:
- Article 7(1) of Council Directive 83/182/EEC of 28 March 1983 on tax exemptions within the Community for certain means of transport temporarily imported into one Member State from another must be interpreted as meaning that, where a person has both personal and occupational ties in two Member States, his normal residence, determined in the context of an overall assessment by reference to all the relevant facts, is that where the permanent centre of interests of that person is located; in the event that such an overall assessment does not result in its determination, primacy must be given to personal ties.
- National legislation which provides, in the event of infringement of the temporary importation arrangements laid down by Directive 83/182, for a series of penalties including, in particular:
is compatible with the principle of proportionality only in so far as it is made necessary by overriding requirements of enforcement and prevention, when gravity of the infringement is taken into account.
- fines set at a flat rate on the basis of the sole criterion of the vehicle's cubic capacity, without taking its age into account,
- increased duty which can amount to up to ten times the taxes in question,
- In proceedings concerning infringements relating to temporary importation of certain means of transport, neither Directive 83/182 nor other rules of Community law prevent its being excluded that ignorance of the applicable rules should lead to automatic exoneration from all penalties. None the less, where determination of the arrangements applicable has given rise to difficulties, account must be taken of the good faith of the offender when determining the penalty actually imposed on him.