CERN Official Taxation Case

CourtAdministrative Tribunal of Geneva (Switzerland)
Switzerland, Administrative Tribunal of Geneva.
CERN Official Taxation Case

International organizations Officials Immunity European Organization for Nuclear Research (cern) Entitlement of officials to immunity from taxation in receiving State CERN-Switzerland Headquarters Agreement, 1955, Article 17 Scope of exemption from taxation Whether extending to surtax on housing subsidy received by official Limitation of fiscal immunity by reference to purpose for which it is granted The law of Switzerland

Summary: The facts:K, a foreign national, was an employee of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (cern). Having been provided with housing at a subsidized rent he was assessed to a surtax under the legislation applicable to such accommodation. Relying on the fiscal immunity granted to officials of cern, he appealed against the assessment to the Administrative Tribunal of Geneva.

Held:The appeal was dismissed.

(1) It was generally recognized that diplomats and international officials enjoyed exemption from direct taxation, with the exception of taxes on real estate, whereas they were liable to pay indirect taxes and duties. But, under Article 17 of the Headquarters Agreement between the Swiss Federal Council and CERN, non-Swiss officials of the Organization were specifically exempted only from taxation on their salaries and emoluments, to the exclusion of other public fiscal charges mentioned, for example, in Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961. Consequently there was no entitlement to immunity from the surtax at issue.

(2) Even if the Headquarters Agreement had conferred a wider fiscal immunity on cern officials, such immunity was granted to officials in the interests of their functions and they would have had a duty to waive it in this case because its purpose would not have been infringed by the surtax on housing subsidy which was at issue.

The following is a statement of the facts as reported in Annuaire Suisse de droit international 1984, p. 190:

K was an employee of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (cern). He was accommodated at reduced rent in a building constructed with State aid provided by the Canton of Geneva. K was assessed to a surtax in accordance with legislation applicable to such accommodation and appealed against that assessment to the Office for Subsidized Housing, relying in particular on the fiscal immunity granted to officials of cern. The appeal was rejected and K instituted proceedings...

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