Miguel Poiares Maduro said that insisting on such a tax 'constituted a good illustration of the kind of obstacle to the free movement of persons within the EU which (the taxation) directive was intended to eliminate'.
The case focused on an Austrian citizen who had moved to the Netherlands, having bought his company car from his employer Océ Österreich GmbH. Having contacted the Dutch authorities, he was told he had to pay the Belasting van Personenauto's en Motorrijwielen motor registration tax (BPM).
With registration tax having already been paid on his car in Austria, the man appealed against the decision and the case was referred to the ECJ for an advisory ruling by the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (Dutch high court).
Poiares Maduro pointed out that if the Dutch had their way, if the man moved to another EU country with his car, he would face paying a third registration tax, 'a very high price each time he moved from one member state to another, corresponding more or less to one third of the list price of the vehicle'.
In a side issue, the advocate general said a company car should be considered the personal property of its driver in such cases, even when it had not been bought from an employer. It would be sufficient that drivers had a car at their full exclusive personal disposal, with a right to buy granted on delivery.
He also rejected a Dutch government argument that registration tax only be waived where a driver promised to keep a car in a garage or museum and not use it on the road. Advocate generals' advice is usually followed by the full ECJ in final rulings.