Billag fee: DETEC plans repayment of value-added tax

Consumers can hope for a refund of the wrongly levied Billag value-added tax. According to the Federal Court, there is no general obligation to refund. However, DETEC now wants to create a law for a lump sum to be paid to all households.

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The repayment of VAT to all households is to take the form of a flat-rate credit on the future bill from the collection agency for the radio and television reception fee. This was announced by the Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) in a press release on Wednesday. DETEC is thus following the motion of National Councillor Sylvia Flückiger (SVP/AG), which was passed by parliament and which calls for repayment to all households.

DETEC's announcement is, among other things, a reaction to a ruling by the Federal Supreme Court published on Wednesday. The Lausanne judges partially upheld an appeal by the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM). The court holds that claims for VAT refunds for the period before 1 January 2010 are time-barred. In the current ruling, the Federal Supreme Court is basing its decision on a ruling from September concerning the same matter. In this ruling, the Lausanne judges had to assess the claim of a person concerned who had been demanding a refund since January 2007.

Consumer protection sued

In the case that has now been decided, four consumers who were supported by the Foundation for Consumer Protection (SKS) and its partners in western and southern Switzerland filed a complaint. They were seeking repayment of the VAT for the period from 1 June 2005 to 1 June 2015 to all fee payers and not only to those who had submitted a request. In the current ruling, the Federal Supreme Court once again explains how the applicable statute of limitations applies and that claims from before 1 January 2010 are time-barred. The Federal Administrative Court had supported the request of the representatives of the consumer organisations and approved their appeal in March 2017. Bakom appealed against this to the Federal Supreme Court.

Parliament decides

A total of around CHF 170 million is to be refunded to households liable to pay the fee, as DETEC writes in its media release. This is the sum of the value added tax levied between 2010 and 2015, which was paid on the reception fees. According to current estimates, the amount to be refunded is around 50 francs per household. Whether the credit is paid out in accordance with DETEC's ideas will ultimately be decided by parliament.

"Workable solution"

The Foundation for Consumer Protection and its partner organisations are satisfied with the Federal Supreme Court's ruling, as they wrote in a media release on Wednesday. For reasons of practicability and time, they also welcome the reimbursement in the form of a lump sum proposed by DETEC. DETEC and the consumer protection organisations point out that those who had submitted an application must also wait for the legal regulation for a lump-sum refund. These procedures are suspended. Consumer Protection has announced that it will reactivate these applications if the legislator does not deal with the matter for a disproportionately long period of time or decides against a flat-rate refund. (SDA)

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