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Justice chancellor: Taking car tax matter to Supreme Court not out of question

Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise.
Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Since some people may no longer be able to afford the vehicle they need once a controversial planned car tax is enacted, Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise is not ruling out taking the matter to the Supreme Court.

The justice chancellor says that suitable cars may become beyond some people's means, depending on the tax rates eventually put in place.

Affected demographics may include the disabled, large families, and those living in more remote areas, Madise adds.

The justice chancellor told daily Postimees in an interview that: "When it comes to taxation, the Riigikogu has a wide range of options at its disposal, but as a minimum the issue of car tax should go through the Supreme Court if the outcome is that that the tax rate remains so high that, for example, people living in the countryside, or large families or people with disabilities, are forced to give up an essential car."

Madise stressed that the Estonian Constitution strongly safeguards private property rights.

The chancellor of justice going to the Supreme Court on the issue forms a part of her official role and as such is part of the natural ebb and flow of state live, Madise went on.

At the same time, she expressed hope that this would not need to happen.

"I would rather not go down this route, because it is my sincere hope that a recovery of the Riigikogu's normal functionality is viable, while they will also carefully consider what the affordable car tax rate in Estonia might be."

Madise said that specific car tax rates had been mentioned in the bill's drafting process, but added that if the initial figure ends up being the final rate, simply due to the bill being railroaded through the Riigikogu after being tied to a motion of confidence in the government, then this is an undesirable outcome.

The coalition in response to an opposition filibuster has been passing bills by tying them to a motion of confidence in itself, which with a healthy majority of 60 at the 101-seat chamber is a relatively safe move, but this also means bills do not get substantively debated – MPs are simply voting on the government's continuation regardless of the content of the bill in question.

Finance Minister Mart Võrklaev (Reform) submitted a revised motor vehicle tax bill to the government at the end of November; the planned tax was a part of the coalition deal signed in April with Eesti 200 and the Social Democrats.

The final text of this bill is still not ready due to a lack of consensus across the coalition, meaning it has not been substantively discussed at government and ministerial level either - discussions have been limited to the coalition council a working party tasked with helping to draft the bill.

Eesti 200 would prefer exemptions on the tax for people with larger families, the disabled, and on vehicles not currently registered to be in use on public roads.

The Social democrats agree with the first and third points above.

Reform remains skeptical of any exemptions to the car tax, however, and would mitigate the impact of the tax coming into effect by boosting benefits for those with serious disabilities instead.

Were it to be finalized and pass a Riigikogu vote, the plan is for the car tax to enter into force from 2025.

Appointed to office by the Riigikogu after a proposal from the president, the chancellor of justice (Estonian: Õiguskantsler) is tasked with ensuring the Constitution's principles are followed, and thus acts as a protector of individual rights too. Madise has been in the post since 2015.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

Source: Postimees

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