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Council of State says Brussels has right to implement kilometre tax
The Council of State, the highest court in Belgium, has issued its opinion on Brussels’ planned kilometre tax, known as SmartMove. The court has said that there is nothing illegal about the new tax regime for vehicles and that Brussels can effectively go ahead with it.
The Council said, however, that Brussels should only implement SmartMove in consultation with the other regions. Both Flanders and Wallonia have sharply criticised the new toll and kilometre tax system, saying it would cost motorists much more than the current system of vehicle taxation.
Brussels has been discussing SmartMove for some time. The system would see motorists in the Capital-Region paying a toll for driving as well as a fee per kilometre driven. This would take the place of paying an annual car tax.
As Flanders and Wallonia are not planning such a reform of vehicle taxation, their residents driving into Brussels would pay twice – once in their regions of residence via their annual tax bill and every time they enter the capital. Other organisations, such as the Ligue des Familles, are also against such a tax as it would put too heavy a financial burden on commuters.
Consultations to continue
Brussels asked the Council to provide an opinion on a reform of the system to ensure that, if implemented, it could not be challenged by the other regions in court. The Council has now said that it has the legal right to use the system.
“The Brussels-Capital Region can justify a difference in taxation regardless as to whether the other regions agree with a reform,” the Council said in a statement. “This does not mean that the Brussels Capital-Region does not have to do everything it can to reach an agreement with the regions to prevent or limit discriminatory situations as much as possible.”
Some Brussels ministers and parliamentarians are also hesitant when it comes to SmartMove, including minister-president Rudi Vervoort and his fellow PS party members in general. Finance minister Sven Gatz (Open VLD) has also said that he had doubts about reforming the system during this legislature.
Gatz said in a press release this week, however, that “it is clear that the Council of State is not questioning the power of the Brussels Capital-Region to implement a kilometre-tax”. The Brussels government, he continued, “will take a position based on this advice from the Council of State. At the same time, it will resume consultations with the other regions and the federal government, as it has always done in the past.”
Photo ©Thierry Roge/BELGA