Société Schweppes v Administration d'Enregistrement

Docket NumberCase No. 126
Date17 octobre 1951
CourtCivil Tribunal (France)
France, Tribunal Civil de Pontoise.
Case No. 126
Société Schweppes
Administration d'Enregistrement.

Treaties — Interpretation of — Agencies of Interpretation — Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Interpretation of Clear Text.

The Facts.—This was an action to determine whether the plaintiff Company, of British nationality, was liable in France to the payment of the “impôt de solidarité nationale”, established by Ordinance of August 15, 1945. The Franco-British Convention of February 28, 1882, provided that the nationals of the Contracting Parties should be exempt, on the territory of the other party, from all war contributions and extraordinary loans or contributions raised to meet a situation of emergency. By a letter of September 19, 1946, addressed to the British Embassy in Paris, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the “impôt de solidarité nationale” could not be regarded as a war contribution or extraordinary loan or contribution in the meaning of that treaty provision. The reason given for that interpretation was that the tax in question was not established exclusively for French nationals but was, like death duties, levied on all property actually or legally situate in France, whatever the nationality of its owners. The British Government, while making reservations as to the validity of that interpretation, stated that it would not contest it. It was now contended on behalf of the plaintiff Company that the “impôt de solidarité nationale” was an extraordinary contribution in the meaning of the Convention of 1882. It was further contended that the text of that Convention was clear and that there was accordingly no room for an interpretation of its provisions by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Held: that the plaintiff Company was not exempt from payment of the “impôt de solidarité nationale”. The Court was bound by the interpretation given by the French Government. The Court said:

“When the interpretation of a diplomatic treaty raises questions of public policy, the courts are bound by the official interpretation given by the French Government. Since taxation is a matter of...

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