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17 July 2013
Law 342/2000 established a tax on aircraft noise, mainly with the aim of financing the completion of airport monitoring systems and anti-pollution measures, as well as indemnifying communities living near airports that may be affected by aircraft acoustic pollution. The tax is calculated based on the weight and pollution class of each aircraft and is payable by the air carrier for each aircraft take-off and landing. However, the tax was never actually implemented for many years.
In 2011 the tax was redefined by Parliament as a regional tax and as a consequence, its implementation is now delegated to the legislative autonomy of each region. The Calabria Region promptly implemented the new tax. Considering the reasons why the tax was not implemented in other regions, the Court of State Auditors intervened by conducting research and an assessment. The court concluded that the regions had no grounds to justify further delay in implementing the tax. Following the court's assessment, several of the major regions (Lombardia, Lazio, Marche and Campania) started to issue regional laws in order to collect the tax from air carriers, starting from January 2013 with retroactive effect.
The regional laws have been contested by both the Italian air carriers' association (Assaereo) and the Italian airport association (Assaeroporti). In raising concerns and underlining the negative impact of the tax on the air transport market – already under heavy strain due to the economic downturn – the associations maintain that it could lead to distortions in the domestic market, with potential spillover effects for the European internal market as well. They also raised the question of how the money collected by the regions would actually be allocated to finance airport monitoring systems, anti-pollution measures and indemnifications for communities living near airports.
The lack of coordination among regions – and therefore the divergence in the technicalities for calculating and collecting the tax – have led to different implementation measures for the national law. If this issue is not addressed by all of the players involved, it will inevitably affect competition among airports. Moreover, it can be argued that the tax represents an obstacle to freedom of establishment in the European Union and to competition among air carriers and airports at the European level, without taking into consideration the increasing role played by alternative means of transport (eg, rail transport).
The associations have also noted that the regional laws do not indicate how the intended use of the tax collected in accordance with the national law (ie, to implement acoustic anti-pollution measures) can be verified.
Assaereo and Assaeroporti have requested the government to suspend application of the tax until a uniform application of the law can be coordinated between the state and regions and among regions. Accordingly, the Lombardia Region has announced its intention to suspend 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), fax (+39 06 88 40 249) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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