ECtHR: publication by tax authorities of personal data of tax defaulters does not breach privacy rights
Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rendered its Chamber judgment in L.B. v. Hungary (application no. 36345/16), finding that Hungarian tax authorities did not breach the right to respect for private and family life (Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ECHR) by publishing a list of tax defaulters, including the applicant’s personal details, on its website.
Under Hungarian law, this is a measure provided for in respect of those individuals whose tax arrears and debts exceed 10 million Hungarian forints. In the applicant’s case, the information published included his name, home address, tax identification number and the amount of unpaid tax which he owed. He subsequently also appeared on a list of ‘major tax evaders’ on the tax authorities’ website, while an online media outlet produced an interactive map of tax defaulters indicating his home address with a red dot. The applicant complained that these measures were not necessary and that they aimed at publicly shaming him.
In its judgment today, the ECtHR rejected the applicant’s claim and ruled that the publication of the applicant’s identifying data was justified by the legitimate aim of protecting the tax system and third parties in respect of individuals failing to fulfil their tax obligations. Recalling the margin of appreciation that national authorities have when it comes to matters of economic and social strategy, the ECtHR noted that, in the case at hand, the publication was designed to secure the availability and accessibility of information in the public interest. The Strasbourg-based court further noted that the applicant’s submissions contained no evidence or reference to personal circumstances indicating that the publication of his personal data had led to any concrete repercussions on his private life. It therefore concluded that the measure did not place a substantially greater burden on the applicant’s private life than was necessary to further the State’s legitimate interest.
The judgment is available here.