Owners of cars bought abroad could be entitled to vehicle inspection fee refund
The state may have to pay back millions of euros in fees that it has charged motorists who have personally imported a car from abroad.
The Ministry of Transport and Communications is currently studying whether or not the state will have to refund some of the inspection fees linked with registering the cars in Finland.
The issue stems from a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Communities in September, under which a vehicle inspection cannot be required if the car has undergone a valid inspection in another EU country.
Since the decision, the ministry altered its regulations, and new inspections are no longer required in connection with the initial registration in Finland of a car brought in from an EU country.
Before the new guidelines were implemented, cars imported by Finns from other EU countries were required to undergo inspection for the 12 years that Finland had been a member of the EU.
"Now we are looking into whether or not the state will be required to pay compensation, or if the decision of the court is a reason for refunding the inspection fees", says Kari Saari of the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Since Finland joined the EU in 1995, annual personal imports of cars from other member states to Finland have at times exceeded 30,000 vehicles a year.
Inspection stations have charged up to EUR 200, and even more in some cases, for the inspection of a new personal import. Of that amount, ascertaining the technical condition and emission levels accounted for about EUR 80. If the money has to be returned, the sum could amount to more than EUR 16 million.
Personal imports of used cars could impose another massive bill for the state.
The European Commission feels that the so-called "non-value-added-tax" that Finland charges importers is illegal, and has brought a case against Finland before the Court of Justice. If the Commission's view prevails, the state might have to refund EUR 70 million to owners of cars brought in from other EU countries.
Kari Saari of the Ministry of Transport and Communications says that the matter is complicated, because the former inspection practice was not seen to violate EU directives, but it was found to go against principles of the community's legislation, and the free movement of goods and services.
While the inspection fee is mandatory, it is not a tax equal in size for everyone. The inspections are conducted by private inspection stations, which set their own prices.
The ministry asked for the opinion of Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen on the matter, but no clear-cut response was available.
"An indication of the complicated nature of the matter is the question of what to do in the cases in which an imported car did not pass the inspection. Should the fee be refunded in such situations as well?" Saari ponders.
Previously in HS International Edition:
EU Commission takes Finland to court over car taxes (15.1.2008)