Latest update 10/08/2016: please see below for more details.
Following a decision adopted by the Italian Court of Accounts, some Italian Regions (Lombardia, Lazio and Emilia Romagna) have adopted a new tax on aircraft noise named IRESA (Imposta Regionale sulle Emissioni Sonore degli Aeromobili). It is up to each region to decide on the specific tax level and amount, to be set within a range of values and parameters deliberated by the Conference of the Regions last December. The main factors considered when setting the tax levels are the aircraft Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) and the ICAO Certification Noise Standard levels.
IRESA is applicable to all landings and take-offs at and from airports situated in the Regions’ territory, irrespective of the nature of the flights concerned (scheduled or non-scheduled). Exemptions are granted to aircraft whose MTOW is below 4.5 tons, to State aircraft as well as to aircraft aimed at special operations (fire-fighting, search and rescue, air ambulance), training aircraft, helicopters (except in Lazio), etc. Revenues from IRESA are not necessarily (nor fully) earmarked for noise-related abatement measures; therefore the tax is likely to represent another easy shortcut to feed regional coffers with no or very little benefit to the environment. Some of the Italian airports hit by IRESA are considering legal actions to oppose the tax.
The Directorate promptly informed ERA members about the new tax and contributed to the industry’s immediate reactions, coordinated by IATA, towards the European Commission (DG Mobility and Transport), the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) and the Italian Regions concerned. ERA and the major European Airline Associations reacted unanimously, through the Council for Environmentally Friendly Aviation (CEFA), to express their concerns about the effects of such additional burdens imposed on airlines, on European citizens and ultimately on consumers.
The IRESA has also been contested by the Italian Anti-Trust Authority, the Italian Air Carriers Association (Assaereo) and by the Italian Airports Association (Assaeroporti) because of the negative impact of the tax on local air transport market – already under heavy strain in the current economic downturn. The industry underlined that such a proliferation of regional taxes would lead to distortions of the domestic market and on the potential negative effects on the European internal market. Other remarks raised the validity on how the actual allocation of revenues to finance airport monitoring systems, anti-pollution measures and indemnifications for communities living near airports would be implemented.
The Directorate was glad to inform members that, following the joint industry lobbying pressure on the Italian Authorities, the Lombardia Region suspended the implementation of IRESA, an important decision to be applied retrospectively from 1 January 2013 and the Region will reimburse any revenues already collected from airlines.
At the moment the most important region in Italy that has confirmed its intention to implement and collect the IRESA tax is Lazio (where Rome Fiumicino and Rome Ciampino airports are located).
Following a legal confrontation between Lazio Region and national Government, on 13 February 2015 the Italian Constitutional Court reaffirmed the legitimacy of the latter’s instances to impose a cap on IRESA. In its decision, the Constitutional Court held very clearly that the €0.50 per tonne cap, deliberated by the Italian Government and ratified by the Parliament in February 2014, is fully legal and legitimate. This was a remarkable success scored against the arbitrary IRESA tax levels unilaterally imposed by the Lazio regional authorities as of March 2014, when they started issuing invoices on a flat rate up to 5 times higher than the €0.50 cap and totally unrelated to the ICAO Certification Noise Standard levels.
Due to the complexity of various and parallel legal actions in place before the National Tax Courts, the Directorate is working very closely with IATA and with the Italian Board of Airline Representatives to fully assess the immediate consequences of the Constitutional Court’s decision and to receive useful recommendations on the next steps.
The industry has already urged the Lazio regional authorities to re-adjust and lower the IRESA tax rates in compliance with the Court’s ruling and with retroactive effect (i.e., since the adoption of the €0.50 cap by the Italian Parliament in February 2014), which was done in Autumn 2015.
The authorities of Campania Region (Naples) have also issued the first invoices to collect IRESA for 2013 and 2014. There are also indications that municipalities in Regione Lombardia (Milan) are calling for the re-introduction of the tax in the region, whilst Sicily has withdrawn its original plans to impose a similar burden.
Latest update 10/08/2016: Despite the improvements to the IRESA legislation in Lazio region, IATA has filed proceedings to challenge the tax on two grounds: the incompatibility of IRESA with international obligations and the incompatibility of the regional law with the national law. The merits of the case will not likely be heard until late 2016 or 2017.
ERA, through the Council for Environmentally Friendly Aviation (CEFA) and in cooperation with IATA, is working hard to lobby on the Italian Regional Authorities and to show the very detrimental consequences this tax may have on the local economy and jobs. The next CEFA meeting is scheduled in Brussels on 17 October 2016.
Further further assistance please contact Leonardo.Massetti@eraa.org