Environmental Taxes (UK)

The Finance Bill 2020 increases existing environmental taxes, amends the carbon emissions tax that is not commenced, and provides for a new packaging tax.

Vehicle Excise and Registration Tax

The government announced at Budget 2017 it would introduce a new regime for calculating a car’s CO2 emissions, known as the Worldwide Harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). The WLTP applied from 1st September 2017. All EC certificates of conformity or UK approval certificates for new cars show CO2 emissions figures based upon the WLTP test procedure, in addition to those based upon the existing methodology (NEDC).

Schedule 1 to Vehicle Excise and Registration Act (VERA) 1994 provides the legislation for annual rates of duty. The Finance Bill 2020 amends VERA to facilitate implementation of the WLTP regime.

VERA is also amended to exempt all registered zero-emission light passenger vehicles registered from 1 April 2017 from the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) supplement for light passenger vehicles with a list price exceeding £40,000, when their licence is renewed on or after 1 April 2020.

Air Passenger Duty (APD)

The rates for APD are set out in section 30 of the Finance Act 1994. The rates of APD for flights to Band A destinations are unchanged. Band B destination APD is increased – in force 1st April 2021.

Climate Change Levy (CCL)

The main rates of Climate Change Levy (CCL) are amended with effect from 1 April 2020. The reduced rate percentages that apply to the main rates of CCL payable by participants in the Climate Change Agreement (CCA) scheme, are also amended with effect from 1 April 2020.

The main rates of Climate Change Levy (CCL) are amended with effect from 1 April 2021. The reduced rate percentages that apply to the Climate Change Levy (CCL) main rates payable by participants in the Climate Change Agreement (CCA) scheme, are also amended with effect from 1 April 2021.

[ Budget 2016 announced that, from 1 April 2019, rates would become subject to ‘rebalancing’ to reflect changes in the fuel mix used in electricity generation. The increase in rates, from 1 April 2019, also sought to recover the tax revenues lost by closing the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme.

Budget 2016 announced that, alongside the rates increase from 1 April 2019, the reduced rates of CCL for qualifying businesses in the CCA scheme would be amended so that participants did not pay more in CCL than they would have if the rates were increased in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) as in previous years.]

[ Budget 2017 announced that in order to ensure a better consistency between portable fuels in the off-gas grid market, the CCL rate for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) would be frozen at the 2019-20 level in the years 2020-21 and 2021-22. For this reason, the reduced rate for LPG will remain set at 23 percent for the years 2020-21 and 2021-22.]

[ Budget 2018 reaffirmed the government’s commitment to continue with the rebalancing and the CCL rates with effect from 1 April 2020 reflect this.

Budget 2018 announced the amended reduced rates for 2020-21 would limit the impact on CCA scheme participants to an RPI increase similar to that in the year 2019-20.

Budget 2018 announced the amended reduced rates for 2021 to 2022 would limit the impact on CCA scheme participants to an RPI increase.]

Landfill Tax

Sections 42(1)(a) and 42(2) of the Finance Act 1996 to increase both rates of Landfill tax (the standard and the reduced rate) in line with inflation (rounded to the nearest 5 pence). The increased rates apply to any disposal of relevant materials made (or treated as made) at a landfill site in England or Northern Ireland on or after 1 April 2020. The increased standard rate also applies from the same date to any disposal of relevant materials made (or treated as made) at an unauthorized waste site in England or Northern Ireland. The standard rate will increase to £94.15 per tonne and the lower rate to £3.00 per tonne.

Carbon Emissions Tax

Part 3 of the Finance Act 2019 (which established the Carbon Emissions Tax – not commenced) is amended. If the Government decides to use the tax as its carbon pricing policy after the Transition Period, the tax would be commenced on 1 January 2021.

The UK remains in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) until 31 December 2020. As set out in the UK’s Approach to Negotiations, the UK would be open to considering a link between any future UK Emissions Trading System (ETS) and the EU ETS, if it suited both sides’ interests.

In the event that there is no link agreed between a UK ETS and the EU ETS the UK would introduce an alternative carbon pricing policy.

The Government is therefore preparing both a standalone emissions trading system and a Carbon Emissions Tax.

Budget 2020 announced that legislation would be included in Finance Bill 2020 to: provide a charging power to establish a UK ETS linked to the EU ETS or a standalone UK ETS; and update the existing legislation relating to Carbon Emissions Tax.

The Finance Bill 2020 amends Finance Act 2019 to ensure that the tax would be ready to be operational from at the end of the Transition Period, if needed.

UK permit holders operating stationary installations would be set a tax emission allowance and be taxed on all emissions that exceeded this allowance on a carbon equivalent basis. The first emissions reports would cover 1 January to 31 December 2021 and the tax would be collected by HMRC annually. It is intended that the bills relating to the first reports would be issued in summer 2022. The tax would rely on data supplied by taxable installations under existing (and continuing) emissions reporting arrangements.

The EU ETS requires participants to obtain permits to emit and then to submit a report annually providing details of their activities across the previous calendar year, from which their emissions across the period are calculated. All greenhouse gas emissions are calculated on a carbon equivalent basis. The data on emissions will continue to be collected following the UK’s departure from the EU.

Much of the existing legislation supporting the EU ETS would, under a Carbon Emissions Tax, continue to provide the legal basis for the monitoring, reporting and verification of emissions, and the permitting of installations.

The Finance Bill 2020 also allows HM Treasury to make regulations which provide for the allocation of emissions allowances in return for payment under any future UK Emissions Trading System (UK ETS).

These include the powers for HM Treasury to establish a UK Emissions Trading System (ETS). This means that emissions allowances can be auctioned in any future UK ETS, as defined in regulations.

The Finance Bill 2020 also allows for the potential implementation of additional market stability mechanisms in a standalone UK ETS. As set out in the consultation, this could include a Cost Containment Mechanism (CCM) to respond to any significant short- term price spikes and an Auction Reserve Price (ARP). If implemented, the ARP would set a minimum price for which allowances can be sold at auction to provide a minimum carbon price signal.

[A response to last summer’s consultation on the Future of UK Carbon Pricing will be published over the coming months.]

Packaging Tax

The Finance Bill 2020 enables HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to prepare for the introduction of a tax on plastic packaging before it is formally provided for in law.

[At Budget 2018, the Government announced the introduction of a new tax on plastic packaging which has less than 30% recycled plastic.]

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