Comparison of all language versions as a method of interpreting EU Tax Law-With some reflections from South Africa
Abstract: CILFIT is a landmark case when it comes to language issues in interpreting EU law. But its criteria have raised many practical implications which have hitherto not been sufficiently dealt with. One area that still needs much attention is whether the European Court of Justice (the Court) in CILFIT has placed an obligation on national courts to compare all the language versions when interpreting EU tax law. In this regard, the research question addressed by this thesis is: to what extent does the Court in CILFIT require national courts to carry out a comparison of all language versions when interpreting EU tax law? This research question is important because it provides clarity on how legal interpretation may be carried out by national courts and addresses the question of uniform application and interpretation of EU law. To create uniformity and to uphold the principle of equality, the Court requires EU law to be interpreted in light of all language versions. An analysis of the cases of the Court shows that the Court is not consistent in using its language comparison requirement. The practical difficulties associated with fulfilling this requirement have led to suggestions of having a few languages as authentic languages to be consulted when interpreting EU law. A major hindrance of settling on one or a few official languages has been mainly political. This is so because any prioritisation of one language over the other implies raising one country in importance, yet the EU is a union of equal nations. However, Brexit may have provided a neutral ground and an opportunity for depoliticising the debate around comparing all language versions when interpreting EU tax law and focusing on the merits and demerits of solutions being provided. In other words, with Brexit, English may be used as a clarifying language version of EU law without it being resisted on political arguments being raised.
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