Austrian Discrimination Suit Over German Highway Tax Circles Drain

Recommending the dismissal of an unusual case between EU member states, a magistrate said Wednesday that Austria cannot support discrimination claims over a new highway tax in Germany.

Austria brought the case here in 2017 after the European Commission terminated its own challenge. Supported by the Netherlands, Austria claims that Germany discriminates on the grounds of nationality by forcing the owner or driver of vehicles registered abroad to pay an infrastructure tax when enter a federal road after crossing a national border.

Foreign drivers can elect to pay a charge that covers their cars for three time spans: a 10-day vignette, a two-month vignette or an annual vignette.

Depending on cylinder capacity, the type of engine and the class of emission, the cheapest 10-day vignette costs €2.50, while the most expensive annual vignette costs €130.

German vehicle owners must pay a charge as well, but they are also entitled to a tax relief corresponding to the amount of the charge. Tuesday’s ruling emphasizes that owners of Euro 6 vehicles — cars that comply with the he latest engine-emission standards set by the European Union — see the highest relief.