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Supreme Court ruling: VAT group; legal proceedings

The Norwegian Supreme Court has in a ruling dated 12 June 2013, decided that a VAT group member has an individual right to institute legal proceedings against the VAT Authority.

A VAT group registration, cf. the Norwegian VAT Act § 2-2 (3), implies that two or more separate companies are regarded as one taxable person for VAT purposes. The members remain jointly and severally liable for any VAT debts. The question arises, whether the group registration affects the member´s individual right to institute legal proceedings against the VAT Authority´s assessment of the member´s own transactions. The VAT Authority adopted a position that only the VAT group (the representative member) had the right to institute legal proceedings, and not the individual group members. According to the VAT Authority, the right to institute legal proceedings regarding VAT assessments is exclusively regulated in the VAT Act, and not in the general Civil Procedure Act.

However, the Norwegian Supreme Court of 5 judges agreed unanimously with the group member, saying that not only the group, but also each individual member has the right to institute legal proceedings, pursuant to the general Civil Procedure Act. The Supreme Court emphasized that when a decision by the VAT Authority is relating to an individual member´s own transactions, there must be clear grounds to derogate from that fundamental right to institute legal proceedings, afforded by the general Civil Procedure Act. The Supreme Court reach the conclusion that there exists no such grounds in the VAT Act.

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