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European Commission Suspends Slovak Republic's Turnover Tax on Food Retail Sector Pending State Aid Investigation

On 2 April 2019, the European Commission announced that it has opened a State aid investigation into the Slovak Republic's new 2.5% turnover tax on the food retail sector and issued an injunction suspending the tax until the investigation is complete.

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State aid: Commission opens in-depth investigation into Slovakia's tax on the food retail sector

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into a tax on the food retail sector in Slovakia. The tax, adopted by Slovakia in December 2018, applies to food retailers that operate in the country. It entered into force on 1 January 2019, and the first payment would have been due by the end of April 2019. The Commission has also today issued an injunction, requiring Slovakia to suspend the application of the measure until the Commission has concluded its assessment under EU State aid rules.

Under the tax, food retailers would pay a quarterly tax amounting to 2.5% of their total turnover. However, food retailers would be fully or partially exempted from the payment of the tax, if they fulfil one of several conditions concerning, for example, their size. Furthermore, retailers that are members of trading alliances or franchises would also not pay the tax, despite the fact that their combined turnover is comparable to that of the largest retailers.

The Commission started to look into the matter following information it received from stakeholders. In December 2018, the Commission also received a formal complaint. At this stage, the Commission has concerns that the application of the Slovak food retail tax with its exemptions confers a selective advantage on companies that are exempted from the tax and therefore involves State aid within the meaning of EU rules. The Commission is also concerned that the measure may affect consumers negatively, notably through an increase in prices or a reduction of consumer choice on the Slovak retail market. The Commission will now investigate further to determine whether its initial concerns are confirmed. The opening of an in-depth investigation gives interested third parties the opportunity to comment on the measures under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

The full press release is available online.

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