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France: Deferral of payment of civil aviation tax by airlines (COVID-19)

France: Deferral of payment of civil aviation tax

The EU General Court issued a judgment holding that the deferral of the payment of taxes introduced by France to support airlines which hold a French license in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was consistent with EU law.

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As noted in a release [PDF 161 KB], the General Court found this aid scheme was “appropriate for making good the economic damage” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and did not constitute discrimination. The case is: Ryanair DAC v. Commission (T-259, 17 February 2021)

In March 2020, France notified the European Commission of an aid measure in the form of a deferral of the payment of civil aviation tax and solidarity tax on airline tickets due on a monthly basis during the period from March to December 2020. The  deferral benefitted airlines holding a French license and involved postponing the payment of those taxes to 1 January 2021 and then spreading payments over a period of 24 months (until 31 December 2022). The precise amount of the taxes would be determined by reference to the number of passengers carried and the number of flights operated from a French airport.

The EC decided in March 2020 that the deferral of the payment of the taxes was state aid that was compatible with the internal market, in accordance with Article 107(2)(b) TFEU. Pursuant to that provision, aid to make good the damage caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences would be compatible with the internal market.

An airline challenged this determination, and the General Court of the European Union dismissed this action.

The judgment examines, for the first time, the legality of a state aid scheme adopted in order to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic under Article 107(2)(b) TFEU. 

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