Judgment of the Court (First Chamber) of 7 July 2011 – Nisipeanu v Direcţia Generală a Finanţelor Publice Gorj and Others

(Case C‑263/10)

Internal taxation – Article 110 TFEU – Pollution tax levied on first registration of motor vehicles

1.                     Tax provisions – Internal taxation – Pollution tax imposed on motor vehicles on their first registration in national territory – Tax applicable to imported second-hand vehicles but without any equivalent for vehicles of the same age and the same condition present on the national market – Not permissible (Art. 110 TFEU) (see paras 28-29, operative part)

2.                     Questions referred for a preliminary ruling – Interpretation – Temporal effects of judgments by way of interpretation – Retroactive effect – Limitation by the Court – Conditions – Importance for the Member State concerned of the financial consequences of the judgment – Criterion not conclusive (Art. 110 TFEU) (see paras 32-36)


Reference for a preliminary ruling – Tribunalul Gorj – Registration of second-hand vehicles previously registered in other Member States – Environmental tax on motor vehicles upon first registration in a Member State – Classification of the criterion of ‘date of first registration’ – Whether the national legislation is compatible with Article 110 TFEU – Whether exemption from payment of the tax, introduced for certain categories of vehicle, is lawful – Possible application of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

Operative part

Article 110 TFEU must be interpreted as precluding a Member State from introducing a pollution tax levied on motor vehicles on their first registration in that Member State, if that tax is arranged in such a way as to discourage the putting into circulation in that Member State of second-hand vehicles purchased in other Member States but without discouraging the purchase of second-hand vehicles of the same age and condition on the domestic market.