Constitutional Court admitted the claim of religious organizations on the import tax regulations
On June 23, 2021, the Constitutional Court of Georgia issued a Recording Notice and partially accepted the constitutional claim of nine religious associations for consideration on the merits. Claimants' interests are represented by the Tolerance and Diversity Institute (TDI).
In the constitutional lawsuit, the religious organizations request to declare unconstitutional the norms of the Tax Code of Georgia, which imposes the obligation to pay import tax and value-added tax (VAT) during import on all religious organizations except the Georgian Orthodox Church when importing religious objects from foreign countries. The claimants consider that such an approach contradicts the right to equality guaranteed by Article 11 of the Constitution of Georgia.
The lawsuit challenges Article 159, Part 1, section “C,” Article 195 and Article 11 of the Tax Code of Georgia in relation to Articles 11 and 16 of the Constitution of Georgia (the rights to equality and freedom of religion).
However, the Court did not accept the lawsuit in the part in which the lawsuit seeks to declare unconstitutional the content of the norm defining religious activity in the Tax Code (Article 11). The article does not consider importing religious objects as a part of religious activity.
As a reminder, in 2018, the Constitutional Court upheld two lawsuits of religious associations. It declared unconstitutional the norms of the Tax Code of Georgia and the Law on State Property, which also imposed discriminatory conditions for non-dominant religious organizations.
TDI provides legal aid and strategic litigation in the frame of the project “Combatting Religious, Ethnic and Racial Discrimination in Georgia” with the support of East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) project Promoting Rule of Law in Georgia (PROLoG) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).