|Juliane Kokott was also in the Global Tax 50 2012|
Juliane Kokott returns to the Global Tax 50 after a two-year absence.
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, not-quite-commodity.
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using her Opinions to challenge the so-called 'M&S exemption' on cross-border relief, which she feels should be repealed.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 benefit.