In these three cases the applicants rely, in particular, on Article 9 (right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion), alleging that the fact that they were required to pay tax on hand-to-hand gifts infringed their right to manifest and exercise their freedom of religion.
The Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple is a not-for-profit association which was set up on 3 April 1991 and dissolved on 10 August 1995 and the aim of which was the construction of a place of worship in Castellane (France). The Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus is a not-for-profit association set up in 1971 and dissolved on 16 September 1995. It was dedicated to the practice of a new religion known as Aumism. Following tax assessment procedures, sums of more than 2.5 million € and 37,000 € respectively were recovered from the associations in question, after the tax authorities’ inspection revealed gifts entered in their accounts. When the associations refused to declare the gifts, the authorities automatically imposed a tax rate of 60% in accordance with Article 757 of the General Tax Code, which states that hand-to-hand gifts are subject to gift tax. The associations were also ordered to pay an 80% surcharge.
The applicants in the last case are the association the Evangelical Missionary Church and its president, Éric Salaûn. Following an audit of its accounts and the imposition of tax on the hand-to-hand gifts which this brought to light, the administrative authorities considered that the association could not be classified as a „religious“ association for the purposes of claiming the corresponding tax exemptions. The association was therefore obliged to pay more than 280,000 € (automatic taxation at the 60% rate) to the Treasury.
The applicants in these three cases also rely, in particular, on Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination). The Religious Association of the Pyramid Temple and the Association of the Knights of the Golden Lotus complain of discrimination based on religion in the enjoyment of the rights guaranteed by Article 9 and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association), while the Evangelical Missionary Church alleges discrimination based on its classification as a sect, which it considers to be arbitrary.
Press release ECHR 025 (2013) 22/01/2013