Language of document : ECLI:EU:C:2014:108

Case C‑82/12

Transportes Jordi Besora SL

v

Generalitat de Catalunya

(Request for a preliminary ruling from the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Cataluña)

(Indirect taxes — Excise duties — Directive 92/12/EEC — Article 3(2) — Mineral oils — Tax on retail sales — Concept of ‘specific purpose’ — Transfer of powers to the Autonomous Communities — Financing — Predetermined allocation — Health-care and environmental expenditure)

Summary — Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber), 27 February 2014

1.        Tax provisions — Harmonisation of laws — Excise duties — Directive 92/12– Mineral oils — National legislation establishing a tax on retail sales of mineral oils — Tax financing the powers of regional or local authorities in the fields of health and the environment — Tax not itself directed at ensuring protection in those fields — Absence of specific purpose — Not permissible

(Council Directive 92/12, Art. 3(2))

2.        Questions referred for a preliminary ruling — Interpretation — Temporal effects of judgments ruling on interpretation — Retroactive effect — Limitation by the Court — Conditions — Significance for the Member State concerned of the financial consequences of the judgment — Not decisive

(Art. 267 TFEU)

1.        Article 3(2) of Directive 92/12 on the general arrangements for products subject to excise duty and on the holding, movement and monitoring of such products must be interpreted as precluding national legislation that establishes a tax on the retail sale of mineral oils, for such a tax cannot be regarded as pursuing a specific purpose within the meaning of that provision where that tax, intended to finance the exercise by the regional or local authorities concerned of their powers in the fields of health and the environment, is not itself directed at protecting health and the environment.

A specific purpose within the meaning of Article 3(2) of Directive 92/12 is a purpose other than a purely budgetary purpose. In addition, it has already been held that the reinforcement of the autonomy of a regional or local authority through the grant of a power to generate tax income constitutes a purely budgetary objective that cannot, on its own, constitute a specific purpose in the sense contemplated by Article 3(2) of Directive 92/12.

None the less, since every tax necessarily pursues a budgetary purpose, the mere fact that that tax is intended to achieve a budgetary objective cannot, in itself, suffice — if Article 3(2) of Directive 92/12 is not to be rendered meaningless — to preclude that tax from being regarded as having, in addition, a specific purpose within the meaning of that provision. In this connection, the predetermined allocation of the proceeds of that tax to the financing by regional authorities of powers transferred to them by the State in the fields of health and the environment can constitute a factor to be taken into account for the purpose of establishing the existence of a specific purpose. However, such an allocation, which is merely a matter of internal organisation of the budget of a Member State, cannot, in itself, constitute a sufficient condition in that regard, since any Member State may decide to lay down, irrespective of the purpose pursued, that the proceeds of a tax be allocated to financing particular expenditure.

In order to be regarded as pursuing a specific purpose within the meaning of Article 3(2) of Directive 92/12, a tax must itself be directed at protecting health and the environment. This would, in particular, be the case where the proceeds of that tax had to be used for the purpose of reducing the social and environmental costs specifically linked to the consumption of the mineral oils on which that tax is imposed, so that there is a direct link between the use of the revenue and the purpose of the tax in question.

(see paras 23, 25, 27-30, 36 operative part)

2.        See the text of the decision.

(see paras 40-42, 48, 49)