Designing Aviation Taxes Within the EU: Chartering Ongoing Challenges and Proposing Future Solutions

Yvette Lind

Research output: Working paperResearch


This paper was presented at the Levin College of Law´s Tax Colloquium in April 2020. It focuses on environmental taxes, specifically aviation taxes, and the challenges and limitations EU law imposes on individual EU Member States when they attempt to enforce both national and international environmental policy goals. Both the former Irish- and the recently implemented Swedish aviation tax are used as comparative examples when chartering and discussing what (legal) obstacles are posed by EU law and, subsequently, the options available to individual Member States when attempting to design and implement environmental taxes. Further, common political obstacles are addressed in the Swedish and Irish case studies to further enhance the understanding of why and how aviation taxes are designed the way they generally are.

A holistic approach, resulting in the inclusion of not only tax law and environmental law elements but also EU free movement law and EU state aid law in parallel legal systems (at domestic level and EU level) is applied in order to provide a more coherent and transparent outline of the studied matter. The article affords, through a tax technical study combined with environmental and economic theories, a conceptual framework on how an aviation tax may be designed to fulfil environmental goals and generate tax revenues while still complying with EU law. The paper comprises differing methods in calculating CO2 emission offsetting, based upon not only a selection of aviation taxes but also the distance travelled combined with the Swedish carbon tax alternatively the EU emission trading scheme. Calculating factual taxation of individual flights offers the reader further understanding of the polluter pays principle and present (in)efficiency of aviation taxes at Member State level.

Despite the paper only covering aviation taxes applied within the EU, these discussions are of great relevance to scholars outside of the EU as well, as all airlines and passengers will be subject to them when travelling within the EU. Additionally, policy discussions such as these will only become more relevant over time due to ongoing environmental discussions and the implementation and enforcement of the UNs sustainability goals.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherCopenhagen Business School [wp]
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesCBS LAW Research Paper


  • Aviation taxes
  • Flight taxes
  • Air travel tax
  • Environmental taxes
  • EU law
  • State aid
  • Free movement
  • Tax policy
  • Tax design

Cite this