Time period for providing additional information to a tax refund application not a limitation period

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) ruled in the case of Sea Chefs Cruise Services GmbH (C-133/18) that the one-month period to provide additional information to an application for tax refunds is not a limitation (lapse) period. What does this mean for those claiming tax refunds?

German Sea Chefs Cruises Services GmbH applied for a refund of VAT paid in France for the 2014 taxable period. The French tax administrator then requested additional information, which the company was to submit within one month from receiving the request for such additional information. As the German company did not respond within the stipulated deadline, the French tax administrator dismissed the application for a tax refund.

The German company appealed to a national court in France, also submitting the documents originally requested by the French administrator. The case then appeared before the CJEU, with a prejudicial question whether in the context of the right of appeal laid down in the directive, and having regard to the principles of neutrality and proportionality of VAT, it was possible to regularise the application for VAT refund before the tax court.

The CJEU held that the deadline for providing additional information to an application for VAT refund was not a limitation (lapse) period; therefore, the failure to meet it does not mean that the taxable person would lose the possibility of regularising their refund application directly before the national court. The court based its opinion mainly on the fact that additional information may also be requested from persons other than the taxable person/applicant, and that their failure to respond or provide a reply would harm the applicant’s rights. The court also pointed out that the VAT Directive contains provisions stating that the member state is not liable for payment of default interest where additional data were not provided within stipulated deadlines; the legislators’ intention is thus obvious.

This means that if companies applying for tax refunds fail to meet the deadline for providing additional information requested, all is not yet lost– it suffices that the application itself has been filed within the stipulated deadline.

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