Background
Facts
Decision



A recent judgment issued by the Constitutional Court on February 18 2015 established a fundamental rule for the implementation of a regional tax on aircraft noise.

Background

The tax has been charged since 2013 for noise emissions caused by civil aircraft during take-off and landing at Italian airports (for further details please see "New tax on aircraft noise raises concerns"). The amount of tax is determined by each region on the basis of the aircraft's maximum take-off weight and noise levels certified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation for each type of aircraft. Aircraft with a maximum take-off weight below 4.5 tonnes benefit from a tax exemption, as do state aircraft (ie, aircraft owned by the government or other public bodies) and aircraft engaged in fire-fighting, rescue operations and medical or emergency services. Further, historical aircraft (ie, aircraft registered for more than 40 years) and aircraft used for training purposes enjoy tax-exempt status.

Facts

The case that the Constitutional Court resolved was initiated by the Lazio Region to challenge the provisions set out by Law 9/2014, according to which the maximum rate of noise emission tax cannot exceed €0.50 per aircraft tonne throughout Italy. This law also sets guidelines for tax adjustment for daily or overnight flights as well as in connection to the characteristics of the specific urban area near the airport involved. Before the issuance of Law 9/2014, a figure between €1.50 and €2.50 in taxes had been applied per tonne and for each take-off or landing.

The Lazio Region argued that the law was illegitimate, as the tax on aircraft noise is a matter under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Italian regions. The Lazio Region had previously implemented the tax on aircraft noise through Regional Law 2/2013 and applied tax rates between €1.60 and €2.50 per aircraft tonne – Fiumicino and Ciampino airports fall under the jurisdiction of the Lazio Region. On this basis the Constitutional Court was asked to rule on the constitutional legitimacy of the law adopted by Parliament.

Decision

By means of the aforementioned decision, the Constitutional Court stated that Law 9/2014 is fully legal and legitimate, explaining that that the Lazio Region had not proven that there had been a violation of Article 117 of the Constitution (regarding the separation of legislative powers between the state and the regions). According to the court, the limit and guidelines fixed at a national level play an important role in coordinating the implementation of the tax on aircraft noise region by region, thus minimising the risk of negative effects on fair competition between different airports and geographical areas.

As a consequence of the decision, authorities from the Lazio Region made it known in March 2015 that they will:

  • re-adjust the aircraft noise tax rates in compliance with the Constitutional Court ruling; and
  • refund the excess taxes paid by operators prior to the court's decision by allowing them to use overpaid amounts against future payments of the tax.

For further information on this topic please contact Laura Pierallini at Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati by telephone (+39 06 88 41 713) or email ([email protected]). The Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati website can be accessed at www.studiopierallini.it.