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Case 168/78 Commission v France (Tax on Spirits) [1980]

Facts

  • France imposed a tax on the manufacturing of certain spirits, namely those distilled from cereals (e.g. whisky)
  • This tax did not apply to spirits distilled from fruit (e.g. brandy)

Issue

  • Did this tax violate the EU’s prohibition on internal taxes under Art 110 TFEU?

Decision

  • Yes

Reasoning

  • As long as the two different types of spirits could be regarded as being in competition with each other (a consumer may decide between buying whisky or brandy based on factors such as price), taxing one but not the other would violate Art 110(2) TFEU, which is concerned with taxes on different (but competing) products
  • The tax would make brandy more attractive to consumers than whisky, as whisky would be more expensive, which might have an adverse effect on the free movement of goods between Member States
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