ECtHR / Application no. 49570/11 / Judgment

Gáll v. Hungary
Policy area
Deciding body type
European Court of Human Rights
Deciding body
Court (Second Section)
Decision date
  • ECtHR / Application no. 49570/11 / Judgment
    Key facts of the case:

    1) The case originated in an application (no. 49570/11) against the Republic of Hungary lodged with the Court under Article 34 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (“the Convention”) by a Hungarian national, Ms Eszter Mária Gáll (“the applicant”), on 3 August 2011.

    2) The applicant was represented by Mr E. Kiss, a lawyer practising in Budapest. The Hungarian Government (“the Government”) were represented by Mr Z. Tallódi, Agent, Ministry of Public Administration and Justice.

    3) The applicant complained under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 that the imposition of a 98% tax constituted an unjustified deprivation of property, or else taxation at an excessively disproportionate rate. Moreover, she asserted that Article 14 of the Convention had been violated because only those dismissed from the public sector were subjected to the tax and because a preferential threshold was applicable to only a group of those concerned.


    6) The applicant, a civil servant for more than thirty years, had been in the service of the Hungarian Tax Authority. On 31 March 2011 she was dismissed, with effect from 1 June 2011. Her dismissal was part of a wave of similar measures throughout the entire civil service.

    70 On dismissal, the applicant was statutorily entitled to two months’ salary for April and May 2011, during which time she was exempted from working. In addition, she was to receive severance pay amounting to twelve months’ salary in application of section 19(2) of Act no. XXIII of 1992 on the Status of Civil Servants (see paragraph 8 below). These benefits were subsequently taxed at 98% in their part exceeding 3,500,000 Hungarian forints (HUF)[1]. The exceeding part was HUF 3,903,529[2], the tax amounting to HUF 3,825,458[3]. This represented an overall tax burden of approximately 60% on the entirety of the severance, as opposed to the general personal income tax rate of 16% in the relevant period. The tax amount in question was never disbursed to the applicant, but was withheld by the employer and directly transferred to the tax authority on 8 June 2011.


    Outcome of the case: 

    For these reasons, the Court unanimously
    1. Declares the complaints under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, read alone and in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention, admissible and the remainder of the application inadmissible;

    2. Holds that there has been a violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 1;

    3. Holds that there is no need to examine separately the complaint under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 read in conjunction with Article 14 of the Convention;

    4. Holds

    (a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, the following amounts, to be converted into the currency of the respondent State at the rate applicable at the date of settlement:

    (i)  EUR 16,000 (sixteen thousand euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable, in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage;

    (ii)  EUR 900 (nine hundred euros), plus any tax that may be chargeable to the applicant, in respect of costs and expenses;

    (b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amounts at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;

    1. Dismisses the remainder of the applicant’s claim for just satisfaction.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    69. As regards the personal burden which the applicant sustained on account of the impugned measure, the Court notes that she had to suffer a substantial deprivation of income in a period of considerable personal difficulty, namely that of unemployment. The Court would observe in this context that Article 34 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (see paragraph 19 above) endorses benefits providing protection in the case of loss of employment, and that according to the European Court of Justice, the aim pursued by severance – that is, helping dismissed employees find new employment – belongs within legitimate employment policy goals (see paragraph 19 above). For the Court, it is quite plausible that the element that she was subjected to the impugned measure while unemployed, together with the unexpected and swift nature of the change of the tax regime which made any preparation virtually impossible for those concerned, exposed the applicant to substantial personal hardships.