Title of research: Comparative Study on the Principle of Abuse of Competence Restricting the Local Fiscal Autonomy.
Promotors: Prof. M.J.M. de Jonckheere and Prof. S.J.C. Hemels
Sub-central governments do have a degree of autonomy in performing their tasks, and part of that local autonomy involves governments gaining their own revenues by levying taxes. This local fiscal autonomy is, for example, legislated in the European Charter of Self-Government.
Firstly, the PhD research focuses on the meaning of local fiscal autonomy, both in an economic, a philosophic, a historic, and a fiscal-legal way, and how this is established in the legal systems of the examined countries (Netherlands and Belgium at least' perhaps later on Germany and the United Kingdom as well). Secondly, the boundaries of the fiscal competence of sub-central governments will be investigated. These boundaries are expected to be different, according to the type of legal system. For example, the system of local taxes in the Netherlands is a closed one: the central government decides which taxes can be levied by communities, and, in certain cases, also fills in some of the essentials of taxes, such as the taxable object and the taxable person. Thus, the main boundary is the principle of legality, in the sense that communities cannot overstep the competence given by the higher authority. In Belgium, an open local tax system exists; communities can set taxes as they see fit, as long as it is in the public interest. Therefore, limits to the fiscal autonomy are to be found in the jurisprudence on common legal principles - such as the principle of equality - rather than in laws and regulations of higher authorities.
The last and main part of the research will be the analysis of a specific boundary of local fiscal autonomy: namely, the prohibition of abuse of fiscal competence. Jurisprudence on this legal principle - of proper legislation instead of proper governance - will be analysed at national level, in the Netherlands and Belgium, and at supranational level, the CJEU and ECtHR. An interesting question is whether a relationship can be found between the way of testing local taxes against this principle and the specific legal system and/or the level of fiscal autonomy in a country. One might ask to what extent are communities free to set taxes as they wish, and when do they meet the limit of the principle of abuse of competence.
Anneke studied tax law, with a specialisation in local taxes, at ESL, and graduated in 2005. She then worked as a tax advisor for sub-central governments. Since 2008, she has worked as a scientific researcher at the local tax research centre ESBL (Erasmus Studiecentrum voor Belastingen van Lokale overheden), which is part of the tax law department at ESL. In November 2012, the board of ESBL gave her permission to start the PhD research. In addition to her part-time job at ESBL, Anneke is also a professional singer (soprano), specialising in a baroque- and lied-repertoire as well as in choir singing.