• Service: Tax, Global Compliance Management Services, International Tax
  • Type: Regulatory update
  • Date: 2/28/2014

Spain - Retail sales tax on diesel contrary to EU law 

February 28: The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) this week issued a judgment finding that the Spanish tax on retail sales of diesel and petrol is contrary to EU law. Transportes Jordi Besora SL v. Generalitat de Catalunya, C-82/12 (27 February 2014)

Moreover, the CJEU concluded it would not be appropriate to limit the temporal effects of this judgment because the Spanish government and the Generalitat de Catalunya did not act in good faith in maintaining that tax in force for a period of more than 10 years.

Read a February 2014 release [PDF 117 KB] from the CJEU.


The EU excise duty directive concerns mineral oils including petrol, diesel, heavy fuel oil, and kerosene, and provides rules relating to excise duties (taxes) in the EU so as to prevent additional indirect taxes from improperly obstructing trade.

However, the directive provides that mineral oils may be subject to indirect taxation other than the harmonized excise duty established by the directive when two conditions are both satisfied:

  • The tax must pursue one or more specific purposes.
  • The tax must comply with the tax rules applicable to excise duty or VAT concerning the determination of the tax base and the calculation, chargeability, and monitoring of the tax.

Relying on the option provided for in the directive, Spain established a tax—IVMDH—on the retail sale of certain hydrocarbons (petrol, diesel, fuel oil, and paraffin). The Spanish tax was intended to finance the new competences transferred to the Spanish autonomous communities in the field of health and also, when relevant, environmental expenditure.

The IVMDH remained in force in Spain from 1 January 2002 to 1 January 2013, when it was integrated into the harmonized excise duty on mineral oils.

A haulage company established in the autonomous community of Catalonia paid, as final consumer, for the tax years 2005 to 2008, over €45,000 in respect of the IVMDH. Taking the view that the IVMDH was incompatible with the directive, the company sought a refund of the amount paid.

A Spanish court referred the question to the CJEU as to whether the IVMDH was compatible with the excise duty directive.

The CJEU on 27 February 2014 found that the IVMDH is contrary to the excise duty directive.

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