EC calls for Belgium to repeal satellite tax

Board calls for refund

BRUSSELS — Belgium’s controversial tax on satellite dishes came under fire again Thursday, when the European Commission announced it had written to the Belgian government calling for the annual tax to be repealed.

The Commission added that all taxes that have already been paid should be refunded. The amount varies from $125 a year to $250 — often more than the cost of buying a dish. The Commission says the tax violates European Union law by forming an obstacle to the cross-border reception and transmission of sat broadcasts. It noted, with suspicion, the fact that the tax benefits cablers, who in Belgium are often part-owned by municipal authorities. It also attacked the requirement to win prior authorization for satellite dishes from local authorities. It said this was “excessively restrictive.”

Warning shot

Since a warning shot fired by the Commission in May 1999, many of the local communes that imposed a levy have withdrawn the measure. However, it is still applied across much of French-speaking Wallonia, including in the major cities of Charleroi, Liege, Mons and Namur. In addition, authorities across Belgium have refused to respond to the request for refunds.

If the tax is not discontinued and refunds are not paid up, Belgium could be taken to the European Court of Justice.

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