Centro di Musicologia Walter Stauffer v Finanzamt München für Körperschaften ECJ C386-04

November 2006

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This case concerns an Italian non-commercial foundation which provides education for classical music students. The institution is exempt from the Italian l’imposta sul reddito delle persone giuridiche (Corporation Tax) and comparable German institutions would be exempt from the German Körperschaftssteuergesetz (Corporation Tax Law). The Centro di Musicologia Walter Stauffer had rental income in Germany which was taxed under a of the German KStG but could not make use of the exemption for cultural institutions, because it was not based in Germany. The German Bundesfinanzhofhas raised the question to the ECJ, whether this exclusion for non-resident institutions is correct under the EC Treaty as an Italian institution would suffer tax on income whereas as comparable German institution would not.

The European Court of Justice (Third Chamber A. Rosas, President of the Chamber, J. Malenovský, S. von Bahr, A. Borg Barthet and U. Lõhmus (Rapporteur), Judges) decided that the fact that the tax exemption for rental income applies only to charitable foundations that are resident in Germany places charitable foundations resident in other Member States at a disadvantage and may constitute an obstacle to the free movement on capital. Thus in principle the legislation constitutes a prohibited restriction on the free movement of capital. Accordingly, the ECJ decided that the prohibition against restrictions on the free movement of capital precludes a Member State from refusing to grant a non-resident charity a tax exemption solely on the ground that it is not resident in that Member State, whereas resident charities are granted such exemption.  The conclusions are further not dependant on how the tax on the foreign entities is levied (whether by way of withholding or by way of assessment). The ECJ held

Article 73b of the EC Treaty, in conjunction with Article 73d of the EC Treaty, must be interpreted as precluding a Member State which exempts from corporation tax rental income received in its territory by charitable foundations which, in principle, have unlimited tax liability if they are established in that Member State, from refusing to grant the same exemption in respect of similar income to a charitable foundation established under private law solely on the ground that, as it is established in another Member State, that foundation has only limited tax liability in its territory.

For a link to the judgment http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/EUECJ/2006/C38604.html

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