Italy / Court of Cassation / 1440 Public Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) v Municipality of Montieri

Key facts of the case:

The Municipality of Montieri formally required a compensation to the Public Revenue Agency as a reimbursement for the 2009-2012 Government tax on the use of mobile phone devices. The Agency refused the compensation and the Municipality complained against this decision to the Province Tax Commission which recognised the right of the Municipality to the compensation. The Revenue Agency filed a complaint to the Regional Tax Commission which refused the complaint. The Revenue Agency decided to file a complaint against this decision to the Italian Court of Cassation. The refuse of the Revenue Agency to pay the compensation to the Municipality was based on the assumption that the in-force Italian legislative discipline ruling this field – that is the Legislative Decree No. 259 of 1st Agust 2003, “Code of electronic communications” – had eliminated the possibility of Government taxation on the use of mobile phone devices.

Outcome of the case: 

According to the Court of Cassation, the decision of the Italian legislator to impose some sort of taxation on the use of mobile phones devices is compatible with both national legislation and EU legislation concerning free trade and competition. In fact, art. 160 of the above-mentioned Legislative Decree No. 259 of 2003 – which covers both mobile and radio electronic devices – imposes for the provision of such services the need of a formal Ministry’s licence. Moreover, according to the jurisprudence of the EU Court of Justice – and more specifically its decision on the case C-416/14 – the in-force EU legislation ruling this field is not incompatible with national legislative dispositions imposing some sort of taxation on the use of electronic communication devices, such as the one concerning the Government’s licence.

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 

It has been pointed out recently (among others, Court of Cassation, sections 6-5, decision no. 12078 of 13 June 2016) that the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the case C-416/14, invested by the tributary judge with the issue concerning the compliance of the national legislative system with the EU law enshrined by the Directives 1999/5/EC, 2002/19/EC, 2002/20/EC, 2002/21/EC and 2002/22/EC, ruled that the EU discipline does not prevent any national legislation concerning the introduction of a tax – such as the government concession tax – on the basis of which the use of mobile communication devices is subject to a general authorisation or licence, since the subscription contract replaces the licence or the general authorisation, and this makes any administration intervention in this field unnecessary. The Court of Justice completed the analysis of the legislative framework of reference, also stressing that, even considering Article 20 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, a different treatment of users of mobile phone devices is compatible with EU legislation inasmuch asthey decide to take outa subscription formobile phone services, or to purchase such services by means of a pay-as-you-gomobile phone card, and only the formergroupof users is subject to the national legislation setting outthe payment of thegovernment concession tax.

Paragraphs referring to EU Charter (original language): 

Si è anche, più di recente rilevato (tra le altre cfr. Cass. sez. 6-5, ord. 13 giugno 2016, n. 12078), che la Corte di Giustizia dell'Unione europea, nella causa C- 416/14, Fratelli De Pra e S.p.A. e altri), investita da giudice tributario della questione relativa alla compatibilità del sistema normativo interno col diritto comunitario di cui alle direttive 1999/5/CE, 2002/19//CE, 2002/20/CE, 2002/21/CE e 2002/22/CE, ha affermato che la disciplina UE non osta ad una normativa nazionale relativa all'applicazione di una tassa, quale quella di concessione governativa, in forza della quale l'impiego di apparecchiature terminali per il servizio radiomobile terrestre, è soggetto ad un'autorizzazione generale o ad una licenza, in quanto il contratto di abbonamento sostituisce di per sé la licenza o l'autorizzazione generale, ciò che rende non necessario intervento alcuno dell'amministrazione al riguardo. La Corte di Giustizia ha completato l'esame del quadro normativo di riferimento, precisando altresì che, anche in relazione all'art. 20 della  Carta fondamentale dei diritti dell'UE, è compatibile col diritto dell'Unione un trattamento differenziato degli utenti di apparecchiature terminali per il servizio radiomobile terrestre, a seconda che essi sottoscrivano un contratto di abbonamento a servizi di telefonia mobile o acquistino tali servizi in forma di carte prepagate ricaricabili, in base al quale solo i primi siano assoggettati alla normativa nazionale che prevede il pagamento della tassa di concessione governativa.

Language: 
Italian
Deciding body (original language): 
Corte di Cassazione