The European Commission has called on Italy and Spain to adjust their rules governing EU port taxation in line with state aid laws.
Ports in Italy and in Spain’s Basque Country are fully exempt from income tax. In the rest of Spain ports do not have to pay corporate income tax on their main sources of revenue, such as port fees and rental income. According to rules drawn up by the EU port taxation exemptions of this nature could constitute a selective advantage for ports and, by extension, a form of state aid. The Commission has therefore requested Italy and Spain adjust their tax systems accordingly, suggesting they ensure ports pay the same corporate income tax as other companies in their respective countries by January 2020.
As cross border competition represents an important aspect of the ports sector within the EU, the European Commission has committed to guaranteeing a level playing field for Member States with regard to EU port taxation. While the EU’s rules on state aid do not apply to non-economic port activities such as maritime traffic control or anti-pollution endeavours, the commercial aspects of the port industry – such as providing paid access to ports – fall under the mantle of economic activity and therefore are covered by state aid regulation.
The Commission has previously imposed similar requirements for EU port taxation on the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: “Ports are key infrastructure for economic growth and regional development. That is why EU State aid rules provide ample room for Member States to support and invest in ports. At the same time, to ensure fair competition across the EU, ports generating profits from economic activities should pay taxes in the same way as other companies – no more, no less.”
The Commission has given Italy and Spain two months to respond to the EU port taxation request.