Mendy shoots on goal in Madrid's Champions match against Atalanta.TIZIANA FABI / AF
P FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic and Osasuna must return to the Spanish Treasury the taxes they have stopped paying since 1990 for having benefited from favorable treatment as they are non-profit entities. The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) has confirmed it definitively this morning after annulling a previous sentence that overthrew the decision of the European Commission to force those clubs to pay taxes like the rest. A spokeswoman for the Community Executive has stated that it "takes note" of the decision.
Brussels has won one of the battles it had open with Spanish sports clubs over illegal state aid that it believed had been granted in the form of advantageous loans , town planning agreements or taxes. The case of these four clubs was perhaps the smallest part of the package of investigations that it launched during the past decade. The European Commission demanded fines of between 0 and 5 million euros, but the final amount must be set by the Spanish authorities.
The case dates back to 1990, when a legislative change forced Spanish professional clubs to become public limited sports companies. However, Barça, Real Madrid, Athletic and Osasuna decided to remain non-profit entities. This allowed them to enjoy a lower corporate tax levy than the rest of the clubs, of 25% instead of the 30% paid by the rest of the entities.
The Community Executive opened an investigation that concluded in 2016, when it judged that this practice it contravened the rules of the Internal Market as it was an illegal public aid. Brussels ordered Spain to end the tax and immediately recover the amounts. In addition, it demanded a fine of between 0 and 5 million euros. However, two clubs – Barça and Athletic – decided to file a cassation appeal. The General Court upheld that of the Barça club and annulled the Commission's decision
The European Court annuls the sanction of Brussels for illegal aid to Real Madrid, Barça, Osasuna and Athletic
However, the CJEU has ended up giving the reason to the Competition services of the European Commission. According to European justice, this regime "gave certain clubs", including Barça, the possibility of continuing to function as a non-profit entity, which "allowed them to enjoy a reduced tax rate compared to that applicable to clubs that functioned as a sports limited liability company. ”
The CJEU therefore rejects the reasons given by the General Court to conclude that the Commission had made errors on the examination of the advantage conferred or legal certainty. "The controversial aid scheme could favor, from the moment of its adoption, the clubs that functioned as a non-profit entity over those that functioned as a sports limited company, thus giving them an advantage," the court maintains. For this reason, the Luxembourg Court dismisses Barça's appeal and validates the Commission's decision. Despite the fact that the appeal was filed by the Catalan club, the ruling affects the four entities.