A potential landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the Skandia case looks set to be brought to a speedy conclusion with an opinion to be made by the court on 3 April, following a preliminary hearing in Strasbourg on 30 January.
Insurance company Skandia recently launched the test case challenging Swedish national legislation, which stipulates that contributions to insurance-backed pensions funds are only tax-exempt if made to locally domiciled insurance companies.
The speed with which the ECJ will rule on the issue is surprising. Cases normally take much longer than two months to be judged following the first hearing.
Observers believe the Skandia case could be the missing link in the triumvirate of high-profile cases that have contributed to the legal push towards pan-European pensions.
The Skandia case, it is felt, could have greater relevance to the occupational pensions sector in Europe than both the Safir and Danner rulings that have proceeded it.
1998’s Safir v Kopparberg (known as the Safir case), saw the Swedish government lose a case preventing a Swedish citizen from taking out an insurance policy in another member state of the EU. This ruling touched mostly upon third-pillar private pensions arrangements.
Last year’s ECJ judgement in favour of Rolf Dieter Danner confirmed that elements of Finnish tax legislation contravened EU legislation – a ruling that principally affects first-pillar state pension arrangements.
A further potential test case being brought by multinational lobby-group PEPGO (The Pan European Pensions Group) is awaiting a reaction from the UK Inland Revenue on tax issues before it decides whether to press ahead.