A French court has annulled a PUMA health charge demand made by the social security agency URSSAF due to late notification.
We have reported on these pages in the past on legal challenges that have been taking place in connection with PUMa health charge, called the cotisation subsidaire maladie.
The poor construction of the legislation that introduced PUMA in 2016 resulted in a hearing in the Constitutional Council (CC), as a result of which the law was changed, with a new formula introduced for the charge, effective from 2019.
In addition to the hearing in the CC dozens of legal challenges to the health charge imposed in 2016 and 2017 have been made in the lower courts.
In December 2018 a local tribunal annulled the charge imposed on an American national resident in France on the grounds that the decree which set out aspects of the legal framework on which the charge was based was not published until after the demand for payment had been sent out. The court ruled that the charge could not, therefore, be imposed retroactively.
Last month, a local tribunal similarly found in favour of a plaintiff who challenged the imposition of the charge on the basis that URSSAF had send out the demand for the charge later than was specified in law.
In their case the demand for payment of the charge was made in December 2017 (for 2016), when Article R380-4 of the social security code states that it must be sent out by 30 November.
The relevant clause states: 'La cotisation mentionnée à l'article L. 380-2 est appelée au plus tard le dernier jour ouvré du mois de novembre de l'année suivant celle au titre de laquelle elle est due. Elle est exigible dans les trente jours suivant la date à laquelle elle est appelée.'
In court, URSSAF did not contest that the demand for payment was sent out late, but argued that under the social security code they were were entitled to three years to collect social security contributions. However, the court considered that there was a difference between the foreclosure period for recovery action of unpaid contributions and the date set for notification of the charge.
It is to be anticipated that URSSAF will appeal the decision, and we will follow up with the result of that appeal in due course. (UPDATE Jan 2020. The French Supreme Court has overturned the decision of the tribunal.)
In the meantime, dozens of legal actions are also taking place in relation to the 2017 demand for payment, many of which were also sent out in December 2018, after the 30 Nov cut-off date by which households should have been notified.
Other cases are being contested on the grounds that URSSAF used the formula for determination of the charge that was subsequently changed by the government and the subject of criticism by the CC.
There also remains controversy about the liability of those with private health care to the charge, with cases pending in the courts.