SAC: no delivery on weekends and holidays, not even by fiction

The Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) has ruled on an age-old dispute: the fiction of delivery to a data box can only occur on a working day. Therefore, if the 10-day period from the date of delivery of a message to the data box elapses on a weekend or public holiday, the message is deemed delivered on the next working day, not before.

The dispute arose because of a penalty for the late filing of a subsequent VAT ledger statement which the tax administrator assessed for three days of delay. In the case in question, the call to file a subsequent VAT ledger statement was sent to the taxpayer’s data box and delivered by legal fiction after the period of 10 days had elapsed, which corresponds to the period for which letters are deposited at the post office for classic mail. In this case, the end of this deposit period fell on a Sunday. From that day, the five days for filing the VAT ledger statement were counted, and the deadline thus ended on Friday.

The taxpayer disagreed: in their opinion, the tax administrator should have applied the rules for counting time stipulated by the Tax Procedure Code, therefore the message could not have been delivered by fiction on a non-working day, but only on Monday. If delivered on Monday, the deadline for filing the VAT ledger statement would fall on the next Saturday, which means it would be postponed until the following Monday. And on that Monday, the VAT ledger statement was in fact filed by the taxpayer. Thus, in their opinion, the penalty was imposed wrongfully.

The taxpayer succeeded with this argument in the regional court, which agreed with their approach. And it was also eventually approved by the Grand Chamber of the SAC, which surpassed the existing SAC case law. Although, according to the Grand Chamber, there are no theoretical reasons why the deadline for delivery by fiction could not end on weekends, in the end the court sided with an interpretation more favourable to the taxpayer. One of the reasons was that the legislators had not been careful in correctly defining the terms ‘deadline’ and ‘period of time’, therefore, a strict theoretical interpretation might lead to a conclusion harming the taxpayer. The judgement’s statement of grounds clearly shows the court’s effort to clarify the rules regarding the deposit deadlines/periods as much as possible.

Thanks to the Grand Chamber’s decision, the approach to delivery by fiction has been unified for physical and electronic mail and across branches of law: the Supreme Court arrived at the same conclusion for civil and criminal matters already in 2017. For most, however, the conclusion that the deadline for delivery by fiction shall not elapse on weekends or public holidays will be the most important aspect.

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