EC Takes Germany to Court Over Unfair Road Taxes: Freedom of Movement of Goods Discrimination

“Millions of foreign vehicles criss-cross Germany every year, one of the few countries on mainland Europe not to have widespread tolls on its roads.

by Mish

Neighbouring countries such as Austria, Switzerland and France all charge motorway users, triggering resentment from drivers in the German regions that border them,” says the Financial Times.

Germany responded by placing its own tolls. Germany also let owners of German registered vehicles deduct those tolls from their annual vehicle tax bill.

Unfair Discrimination” whines the EU nannycrats to the European Court of Justice.

Brussels is taking Berlin to court over Germany’s controversial plan to charge foreign drivers for using its roads, bringing a simmering two-year row into its final stages.

While the charges of up to €130 per year will apply to all users, German registered vehicles are able to deduct the charges from their annual vehicle tax bill — a benefit that the commission says is “discriminatory”.

The proposed fees for short-term access to Germany meanwhile are “disproportionately high”, according to the European Commission, which made the decision to bring Germany before the European Court of Justice on Thursday.

Germany had braced itself for a long legal fight, with the country’s transport minister stating in April that he was prepared to take the disagreement all the way to the EU’s top court. If the court agrees with the commission, Germany would face having to rewrite its law — and face fines if it does not.

Alexander Dobrindt, the German transport minister, said the toll “conforms to European law, and the European Court will confirm that”. He has argued that there are tolls in other European countries and money raised through the levy will go towards Germany’s transport infrastructure.

“Germany doesn’t need any toll,” said Oliver Krischer, a leading Green MP. “It doesn’t yield anything, is highly bureaucratic and contrary to European law. It also has no incentive effect in terms of the environment.”

The European Commission is also examining a similar scheme in the UK, in which British truck drivers can deduct a levy from their domestic vehicle tax, while foreign drivers cannot. This investigation is still ongoing.

“We are concerned that the German system discriminates against drivers from other member states,” said a spokesperson for the European Commission. “It will lead to a situation where German users — and only Germany users — are de facto exempted. When the single market rights of citizens are being threatened, this is where the commission will act.”

Imagine Wisconsin or Indiana taking Illinois to court over tolls or gasoline taxes.

Illinois and Indiana have tolls, Wisconsin doesn’t. Residents in Illinois and Indiana opt for a device that automatically pay the tolls. If you don’t have the device, you pay a higher rate. Is that discrimination against Wisconsin?

Nearly every state has lower sales taxes then Illinois. Is that unfair discrimination?

This kind of bureaucratic nonsense is yet another reason, the UK does not need the EU.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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