On 8 January 2019, the European Commission adopted two decisions recommending Italy and Spain to align their taxation of ports with European State aid rules.
In Italy, ports are fully exempt from corporate income tax, while, under Spanish law, ports are exempt from corporate income tax on their main sources of revenue, such as port fees or income from rental or concession contracts. According to the Commission, these tax regimes may provide the ports with a selective advantage that may breach EU State aid rules.
The tax regimes applicable to ports in Italy and Spain existed prior to the entry into force of the Treaty on European Union in these Member States and, therefore, are considered as ‘existing aid’. When an existing aid appears to be in breach of EU State aid rules, the Commission, as a first step, informs the Member State about its concerns. In light of the reply, the Commission may then propose appropriate measures to bring the measure in line with EU State aid rules.
The decisions adopted by the Commission fall within such second step. In April 2018, the Commission informed Italy and Spain of its concerns regarding their regimes for the taxation of ports. The Commission is now inviting Italy and Spain to adapt their legislation in order to ensure that ports, as from 1 January 2020, will pay corporate tax in the same way as other companies in Italy and Spain, respectively.
The two States have two months to react. If they do not accept the proposals, the Commission may decide to open an in-depth investigation to verify the compatibility of the existing aid.