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European Court of Human Rights approves of Hungarian tax defaulter list

Hungarian National Tax and Customs Authority regularly publishes the list of major tax defaulters for failing to fulfil their tax obligations in Hungary. The list also contains private data of the defaulters, including, inter alia, information on tax arrears and debts and their home address. In a recent case (L.B. v. Hungary – 36345/16), European Court of Human Rights concluded no violation and confirmed the approach of Hungarian tax authority as justified.

Hungarian tax legislation provides for the publication of personal details of major tax defaulters and major tax evaders (those whose tax arrears and tax debts exceeded HUF 10 million, approximately EUR 30,000). Publication was subject to the condition that the affected persons had failed to fulfil their tax obligations over an extended period of time (180 days).

Hungarian tax authority had published personal data of L.B. in connection with his failure to contribute to public revenue, accordingly, L.B claimed that his right to privacy had been violated and had referred to the general public-shaming effect of appearing on the list.

European Court of Human Rights considered whether this interference (if any) was lawful, followed a legitimate aim and whether it was necessary. In this regards, the Court found that the measures aimed to improve discipline regarding tax payment and thereby followed the legitimate goal of protecting the economic well-being of Hungary. Moreover, the aim of disclosure of the applicant’s data under a list of “major tax evaders” had been to protect the particular interests of third parties.

In light of the above, European Court of Human Rights established that making such information public could not be considered a serious intrusion into the personal sphere. Making his personal data public had been justified by furthering the State’s legitimate interest.