New revision of the “Tax Lease”

At the end of July, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the highest authority of the Community, annulled the sentence delivered by the General Court of the European Union (GC) on the so-called “Spanish tax lease system” or “Tax lease”.

Let us recall that the now annulled sentence was delivered by the CJEU in 2015 and it set aside a previous decision of the European Commission by means of which the Commission ordered the recovery of the tax aids granted by Spain to the maritime shipping companies between 2007 and 2011 for considering the State aids illegal and incompatible with the internal European market. The Commission reached this conclusion after a formal investigation which concluded on July 17th 2013 with the Decision, now annulled by the CJEU, on the existence of tax aids granted by Spain whose only beneficiaries were Economic Interest Groups (EIG) and their investors. This decision, needless to say, had an important impact on the affected Spanish naval sector and was appealed before the CJEU by the Spanish government and by numerous investors of the EIGs.

According to the CJEU, the grounds for its annulment are based on the GC’s erroneous interpretation of the European legislation in question. In particular, the CJEU points out three erroneous assumptions: (i) that the Economic Interest Groups who intervened in the sale of vessels could not benefit from the State aid; (ii) that the advantages obtained by the investors were not selective; (iii) that the Commission’s decision was vitiated by a failure to state reasons or contradictory reasoning. Therefore, the Court was requested to reexamine the case and its specific circumstances and to retry it.

From our law firm, we will follow up on the development of this interesting and complex case.