a) Armenia / b) Constitutional Court / c) / d) 30-01-2013 / e) / f) On the conformity with the Constitution of the provisions of Law on Taxes / g) Tegekagir (Official Gazette) / h) CODICES (English, Russian).
Keywords of the Systematic Thesaurus:
Institutions - Public finances - Taxation.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to property.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to property - Expropriation.
Fundamental Rights - Civil and political rights - Right to property - Other limitations.
Keywords of the alphabetical index:
Property right, restriction / Property, deprivation / Property, right, scope / Property, seizure / Tax, exercise powers and perform functions / Tax, powers of the tax authorities / Taxation law, interpretation.
Considering the issue of the State s power to seize property in the framework of tax obligations and its correlation with the right to property, the seizure of property shall be implemented solely in those cases when all other possibilities guaranteeing the performance of tax obligations and stipulated by law are exhausted. No person may be deprived of his or her property, except in the interest of the community and subject to conditions stipulated by law and general principles of international law.
I. The applicant challenged provisions of the Law on Taxes which concern mechanisms for the seizure of property. The applicant contended that the implementation of such seizure leads to deprivation of the possibility of full performance of the right to property, which means that the seizure of property is, per se, deprivation of the right to property, which, in its turn, may be performed only by the decision of a court according to the Constitution, whereas, in practice, it is performed by tax bodies.
II. The Constitutional Court considered the challenged legal provisions in the context of the constitutional regulations relating to the deprivation of property. The Court emphasised the necessity to ascertain whether the challenged provisions aim to deprive the person of the property or to ensure the performance of tax obligations, and whether there are sufficient guarantees which prevent breaches of the human rights within the implementation of the power to seize property. The Court first highlighted the main kinds of limitation to the right to property allowed by the Constitution, which are the following: prohibition of the performance of the right to property by harming the environment; the rights and lawful interests of others; community and state; and deprivation of property, compulsory alienation of property and limitation of the right to land ownership for non-citizens. The Court stressed that the first limitation aims to guarantee a reasonable balance between right to property and the aforementioned values, thereby guaranteeing the right to property but not instituting an absolute right. The Court held that legal aim of the contested regulation is to guarantee the performance of tax obligations of individuals, which has the public-legal meaning predetermined by the Constitution.
The Court highlighted the peculiarities of the deprivation of property to ascertain whether seizure per se constitutes such limitation to the right to property. The Court referred to key features of the deprivation of property, such as; deprivation of the right to property without any compensation, against the will and express wishes of the person, simultaneous suspension of all components of the right and without any guarantee of continuation, and lastly deprivation as a civil sanction. Taking into consideration all these features the Court held that seizure of property definitely differs from the deprivation of property.
As regards the guarantees of human rights protection within the legal framework for property seizure, the Court stated that the acts deriving from the performance of property seizure prescribed in the Law on Taxes (e.g. signing of timetable) derive from the Constitution. The Court also noted that taking into account the real risk concerned with the performance of these measures by the tax bodies, the seizure shall be performed only after all other measures to ensure the performance of tax obligations have been attempted.
The Constitutional Court accordingly declared the challenged provisions to be constitutional, but solely within the legal interpretation accorded to them by the Court s decision.