A new way of tax refunds in Spain: the fuel excise duty or “céntimo sanitario”

14 March 2014

A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) from 27 February 27 2014 declares that the tax on retail sales of certain fuels (IVMDH), known as “céntimo sanitario”, is contrary to EU Law.

This tax was in force in Spain since its approbation in 2002 until 31 December 2012, affecting all types of businesses and private people, but especially companies with an important fleet of vehicles for transport, for people or goods.

Through the presentation of a question for a preliminary ruling before the ECJ by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia regarding this matter, the EU Court of Justice found that the imposition of the “céntimo sanitario” infringes the Directive on Excise Duties because said tax does not pursue a specific purpose.

Accordingly, the Court of Justice’s decision has opened a way in favor of the tax payer to claim the reimbursement of inappropriately paid taxes.

Furthermore, the ruling is pronounced retroactively, not posing any time limits regarding its effects, on the grounds that the Spanish State failed to act in good faith maintaining it in force during many years: The Court ruled on a case similar to the Spanish one in 2000 and additionally, in 2001, the European Commission began an infringement procedure against the Spanish Kingdom regarding this matter.  

In order to reclaim the paid taxes outside the general limitation period of 4 years, the claims need to be filed within one year of the date the ruling is published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

For further information, please contact José Blasi