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Constitutional Court temporarily halts plans for a Catalan tax agency

Source: El Pais - Mon 14th Sep 2015
Constitutional Court temporarily halts plans for a Catalan tax agency

Spain's Constitutional Court has temporarily suspended part of a Catalan law aimed at setting up a regional tax agency that would constitute a key step in the bid to create an independent Catalonia.

The country's top court has agreed to hear an appeal filed by the Madrid government, which argues that the Catalan legislation aims to turn some national Tax Agency workers into employees of the Catalan executive.

In response to the court's decision to put two articles of the law on hold, the Catalan government on Monday called an urgent press conference to criticize what amounts to the blocking of the first "state structure" that Catalan premier Artur Mas wants to create on his path to independence.

The articles under appeal would allow some national Tax Agency workers stationed in Catalonia to voluntarily switch over to the future Catalan collection body.

The Constitutional Court is now giving Congress, the Senate, the Spanish executive and the Catalan parliament 15 days to file claims, and will keep the Catalan articles on hold for a maximum of five months. After that, the court will say whether the freeze will continue until a final decision on the matter is reached, or whether the Catalan government may apply its legislation in the meantime.

Developing a Catalan tax agency has been a cornerstone of Artur Mas's plan for an independent Catalonia, which he is planning to keep pursuing if his secessionist bloc Junts pel Sí (Together for yes) wins the regional elections on September 27.

This body would collect the property transfer tax and inheritance and gift taxes; it would also attempt to get Catalan taxpayers to entrust it with tax information that is in the state's hands.

The plan for a regional tax agency was built on the Swedish and Australian models of "cooperation with the taxpayer," in the words of Artur Mas.

This is not the first time that Madrid and Barcelona have become entangled in a legal wrangle over the issue of independence. Last November's informal referendum on independence was preceded and followed by legal appeals filed by the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

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