In a request for preliminary ruling, Court of Justice of the EU ruled that EU Member States are free to impose taxes and similar charges on mobile network transmission masts and other network elements, as long as such charges do not have the characteristics of a fee which is imposed on undertakings providing electronic communications networks and services in return for the right to install facilities.
The judgement of the Court concerned the dispute between Proximus, a Belgian mobile operator, and the Province of Namur, whose provincial council adopted a tax regulation imposing an annual charge on mobile telephony network transmission and reception pylons and units in respect of the 1998 tax year. Said tax regulation stated that that charge was applicable to any mobile telephony network transmission and reception pylons and units, installed in the Province of Namur.
The Court had to address the thin line between special taxes charged on certain telecoms activities and facilities, which it generally deems permitted (Vodafone Malta), and fees that can be seen as being charged in exchange for a licence or authorisation to pursue a certain telecoms business activity.
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