European Court of Human Rights


(Application no. 73053/01)

 Legal Summary:{"itemid":["002-3041"]}

Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 91

November 2006

Jussila v. Finland [GC] - 73053/01

Judgment 23.11.2006 [GC]

Article 6

Criminal proceedings

Article 6-1

Criminal charge

Proceedings for imposition of tax surcharge: Article 6 § 1 applicable

Public hearing

Oral hearing

Tax surcharge imposed without an oral hearing: no violation

Facts: A tax office imposed tax surcharges on the applicant amounting to 10% of his re-assessed tax liability. The surcharges totalled 1,836 Finnish Marks at the time, equivalent to about EUR 300 and were based on the fact that his VAT declarations in 1994-1995 had been incomplete. He appealed to the first‑instance administrative court, requesting an oral hearing where a tax inspector and an expert could be heard as witnesses. The administrative court invited the two to submit written observations and eventually found an oral hearing manifestly unnecessary because both parties had submitted all the necessary information in writing. The applicant was denied leave to appeal.

Law: Article 6 § 1

Applicability – Although the tax surcharges in the case were part of the fiscal regime, they were imposed by a rule whose purpose was deterrent and punitive. The offence was therefore “criminal” within the meaning of Article 6.

Conclusion: Article 6 applicable (thirteen votes to four).

Compliance – The applicant's purpose in requesting a hearing was to challenge the reliability and accuracy of the report on the tax inspection by cross-examining the tax inspector and obtaining supporting testimony from his own expert since, in his view, the tax inspector had misinterpreted the requirements laid down by the relevant legislation and given an inaccurate account of his financial position. His reasons for requesting a hearing therefore concerned in large part the validity of the tax assessment, which as such fell outside the scope of Article 6, although there was the additional question of whether the applicant's book-keeping had been so deficient so as to justify a surcharge. The Administrative Court, which took the measure of inviting written observations from the tax inspector and after that a statement from an expert chosen by the applicant, found in the circumstances that an oral hearing was manifestly unnecessary, as the information provided by the applicant himself formed a sufficient factual basis for the consideration of the case.

The Court did not doubt that checking and ensuring that the taxpayer had given an accurate account of his or her affairs and that supporting documents had been properly produced might often be more efficiently dealt with in writing than in oral argument. Nor was it persuaded by the applicant's argument that any issues of credibility arose in the proceedings which required oral presentation of evidence or cross‑examination of witnesses. It found force in the Government's argument that any issues of fact and law could be adequately addressed in, and decided on the basis of, written submissions. The Court further observed that the applicant was not denied the possibility of requesting an oral hearing, although it was for the courts to decide whether a hearing was necessary. The Administrative Court gave such consideration with reasons. The Court also noted the minor sum of money at stake. Since the applicant was given ample opportunity to put forward his case in writing and to comment on the submissions of the tax authority, the requirements of fairness were complied with and did not, in the particular circumstances of the case, necessitate an oral hearing.

Conclusion: no violation of Article 6 § 1 (fourteen votes to three).

© Council of Europe/European Court of Human Rights
This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.

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