Tetlow v Administration d'Enregistrement

Docket NumberCase No. 106
Date06 mars 1952
CourtCivil Tribunal (France)
France, Tribunal Civil du Havre.
Case No. 106
Administration d'Enregistrement.

Treaties — Interpretation of — Agencies of — Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Interpretation Not Contested by Other Contracting Party — Acquiescence.

The Facts.—This was an action to determine whether the plaintiff, a British national, was liable in France, where he was resident, to 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 situations 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 for the exclusive benefit of 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 that the “impôt de solidarité nationale” was an extraordinary contribution in the meaning of the Convention of 1882. The Administration d'Enregistrement, on the other hand, invoked the interpretation given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Held: that the Convention of February 28, 1882, was perfectly clear and not open to interpretation, and that Tetlow, a British subject, was thus not subject to the legislation concerning the “impôt de solidarityé nationale” with regard to movable property. The Court said:

“Article 11 of the Convention of February 28, 1882, is perfectly clear, precise, and devoid of any ambiguity.

“The ‘impôt de solidarité nationale’ is clearly an extraordinary and temporary contribution raised as a result of a situation of emergency. …

“The administration argues that Article 11 of the Convention has been officially interpreted by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and that the Court is bound by that interpretation. There is no doubt that, in...

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