Kokott was also in the Global Tax 50
Juliane Kokott returns to the Global Tax 50 after a two-year
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) advocate general (AG) is
recognised again for her activity in the tax sphere through her
ECJ role, the importance of European Union (EU) case law in
taxation, and the important decisions that the Court will need
to deliver regarding the European Commission's use of state aid
challenges, which is sure to be one of the most important
trends in European tax in the next five years.
In April, Kokott gave her Opinion in Finanzamt Linz v
Bundesfinanzgericht, Aussenstelle Linz, a case which shed
some light on the interaction between tax treaties and state
aid rules. She emphasised in the case that state aid only
occurs when measures favour "certain undertakings, or the
production of certain goods".
This interpretation would appear to limit the scope of state
aid's application, and could perhaps fly in the face of the
EC's wide use of state aid challenges to level the tax playing
field in cases involving companies such as Apple, Fiat,
McDonalds and Starbucks in countries including Belgium,
Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
According to the ECJ's website, the German national presided
over 13 tax cases in 2015 and even more in 2014, making her one
of the most prolific ECJ AGs when it comes to tax.
It's not just the numbers which define Kokott's
contribution, however. One of the most eagerly-anticipated tax
decisions this year was Skatteverket v David Hedqvist,
the case on the applicability of VAT on bitcoin trading.
Cryptocurrency bitcoin was featured in last year's Global Tax
50, due to its ambiguous status as not-quite-currency,
However, Kokott's Opinion on the case – which was
followed by the Court – effectively legitimised
bitcoin as a currency – much to the dismay of EU
member states such as Germany and Poland, which had opposed
bitcoin trading services becoming VAT exempt.
Kokott has also been unafraid to go against the status
quo, repeatedly using her Opinions to challenge the
so-called 'M&S exemption' on cross-border relief, which she
feels should be repealed. The 2005 case law was unsuccessfully
challenged by the UK in 2014, but Kokott – presiding
over the case – sympathised, saying that the exemption
should be abandoned, due to the fact that it conflicts with
other case law.
Mother-of-six Kokott was the judge in the Manninen
case on double taxation of profits on bonds, and also famously
helped put former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on
trial after he altered Italian accounting laws for his own