Municipalities and community councils impose several taxes and charges upon immovable properties situated within their territory, every year, for public services, refuse collection and rent tax. George Coucounis investigates the legal issues relating to an appeal.
People affected by property tax have the right to submit a written objection stating the reasons for the reduction of the amounts payable and/or for their cancellation. When the authorities receive a written objection within the year of the charges, they normally examine it and reply. The issue that arises is whether the decision rejecting the objection is an executory administrative act and if not, which the executory act is that can be the subject of recourse before the Supreme Court. The relevant laws authorising local authorities to impose such taxes and charges are the Municipalities and Community Councils Laws which do not provide a procedure for an objection, despite the fact that the local authorities examine the complaint filed. Moreover, the laws provide for the payment of an additional penalty fee in case the local charges are not paid on time.
The answer is given in the judgments of the Supreme Court stating that the only executory act which can be the subject of recourse is the decision imposing the charges and taxes. According to the Constitution, such recourse can be instituted before the Supreme Court within 75 days from the day it is communicated to the person affected. There is no statutory provision referring to the right for an objection or to the procedure to be followed or even how such an objection is to be dealt with. Therefore, a decision of a local authority to reject an objection is not considered as an executory act that can be appealed and the only administrative decision that can be the subject of recourse is the one imposing the charges and taxes. The rejection of the objection is not considered a new administrative act, since the taxes and charges imposed remain and there are no new facts leading the authority to take a new decision.
A person who has a complaint and wishes to file recourse against the tax imposed has to file it within the time limit of 75 days otherwise the recourse will be dismissed. In the alternative, he can file his complaint to the local authority and if he does not receive a reply within the aforesaid time limit or if the reply is not satisfactory, then he can appeal. The subject of the recourse must be the administrative act imposing the taxes and charges and not the decision rejecting the objection. However, if the authority reduces the charges and taxes but not to the satisfaction of the complainant, he can appeal against this decision, since a new administrative act is created.
In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court outlined the law applicable as aforesaid, stating that the decision rejecting an objection does not create any act of executory character. This is also logical since when the time limit for the filing of recourse expires, the person affected cannot return thereafter without any new facts and through his objection to set aside the legal status created thereby. In fact, if he was allowed to so, he would create a new right of appeal forcing the local authority as the administration to issue a new decision.
The case was about local taxes imposed by a Municipality to a company which owned holiday apartments for professional license and refuse collection. The company filed an objection for 2 consecutive years and the local authority rejected it. Therefore, it appealed and the local authority raised a preliminary objection that the recourse was not against an executory act, since the only enforceable act was the one imposing the taxes and also that the recourse was out of time. The Court accepted the position of the Municipality and rejected the allegation of the company that the taxes were varied, since the increase was due to the penalty charge legally imposed. It concluded that the act appealed lacked enforceability and it was merely confirmatory to the only executory act which was the one imposing the taxes.
George Coucounis is an experienced lawyer practicing in Larnaca, Cyprus.
Educated at University College (London) and Thessaloniki University (Greece), George is fluent in English and has been practicing law in Cyprus since 1982.