Correct notification is essential for EU tax enforcement procedure

A Court revoked an enforcement decree since it was issued before the subject of the decree was notified correctly

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Malcolm Mifsud
17 June 2016, 8:20am
A Court revoked an enforcement decree after it was discovered that the decree was issued before the subject of the decree was notified correctly. This was decided in a judgement delivered by Mr Justice Lawrence Mintoff on 6 June, 2016 in Ricky Alan Reeves -v- Inland Revenue Commissioner.

The plaintiff in his application explained that he had received a letter from the Commissioner of Inland Revenue that he owed the UK tax authorities €241,902.03 and that he had an executive title against him by means of a decree of 21 August, 2013. Mr Reeves filed a judicial protest against the Commissioner because he was not aware of any proceedings against him.

This prompted the Commissioner to file an application in terms of a subsidiary legislation (SL 460/08) that allowed reciprocal assistance in the enforcement in the collection of taxes amongst EU member states. This decree was then notified at the Valletta Football Club. Mr Reeves complained that this was not according to law and asked the court to declare that the procedure of enforcement laid out by the Commissioner was invalid, that the notification was also invalid and to revoke the decree of 21 August, 2013. 

The Commissioner replied by saying that he was merely enforcing a debt of the UK tax authorities and this was allowed in terms of Council Directive 2008/55/KE, which allowed member states to assist each other to collect taxes of residences within the EU. This Directive was then substituted by 2010/24/EU, which came into force in Malta by means of LS 460/08, which allowed member states to collect taxes in Malta of other member states. The Court in August 2013 had upheld the request for enforcement. The Commissioner then notified Mr Reeves with the application and the decree at an address in Ta’ Xbiex. The Commissioner denied using the incorrect procedure to notify Reeves.

Mr Justice Mintoff examined the evidence produced. The UK tax authorities asked the Maltese tax authorities to collect from Mr Reeves unpaid taxes. In an application filed in the court the Commissioner asked the court to order that the application and the documents be served on Reeves and to declare that the documents constitute an executive title. These were notified at the Valletta Football Club, because Reeves was a committee member. These requests were upheld. Mr Reeves then received a letter in Ta’ Xbiex in July 2015, which made reference to the decree of August 2013. Mr Reeves acted by filing a judicial protest to declare that he was not aware of the 2013 proceedings. 

The Court held that in accordance with SL 460/08, following the filing of an application to enforce a tax claim, the court should order that the application and documents be notified to the person concerned and then register the same documents to constitute them as an executive title. 

The Court explained that it was aware of the practice that these applications and documents are notified with the decree, however, this practice is not binding. It is logical that the application and documents should be first notified. The same subsidiary legislation allows a person to challenge the validity of the notification. The Court commented that it was not the first time that in such cases the original claim was reduced or even withdrawn. Therefore, the court should use an amount of caution in these cases and therefore, allow the person concerned to file a reply. The decree will be issued when the Court has heard the parties. 

In this particular case the Commissioner’s application was not notified at Reeves’s residence or place of work.

The Court ordered that the decree be revoked.

Malcolm Mifsud, Partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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Malcolm Mifsud is a partner at Mifsud & Associates.