Request for preliminary rulings in Caribbean tax cases take effect

As of March 1, judges in the Caribbean territories of the kingdom of the Netherlands will be able to request preliminary rulings in tax cases at the High Court in The Hague.

This concerns the Courts of First Instance of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, as well as the Joint Court of Appeals. The date on which this will take effect was laid down in a Royal Decree dated January 31, KPMG Meijburg Caribbean tax and legal advisors announced.

A so-called “tribunal of fact,” or zakenrechter in Dutch – a judge who looks into the merits of a case and not just at whether the law has been correctly interpreted and applied – may at the request of one or both litigating parties, or otherwise “ex officio,” ask the Dutch High Court to render a preliminary ruling. The aim is to have legal questions answered as quickly as possible.

With regard to tax cases in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten and in the public entities Bonaire, Statia and Saba, the High Court will render preliminary rulings in the same way as in tax cases in the European Netherlands.

This will, in accordance with Dutch law, enable judges to request a preliminary ruling from the High Court if the answers to the questions posed to the High Court are needed to decide on an appeal. Parties will be involved with the formulation of the questions.

By making it possible for judges in the Caribbean Netherlands to request preliminary rulings from the High Court more legal certainty and legal uniformity may be offered in the short-term and numerous similar proceedings could be avoided.

Thus, the preliminary ruling procedure is not only deemed more efficient than initiating an appeal or an appeal in cassation, but would also be less costly, not only for the litigating parties, but also for taxpayers engaged in similar disputes.

Since July 1, 2016, it has already been possible to file an appeal in cassation against judgments rendered by the Joint Court of Appeals in tax proceedings.

The Daily Herald.

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