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Still no clarity over green taxes

The publication yesterday of the Government’s response to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s report on ‘Budget 2011 and environmental taxes’ has brought us no nearer to a clear definition across government of what an environmental tax is.

However it is good to see the committee chair and media continuing to press this issue, which was first brought to their attention by the CIOT in our submission to the committee back in May:

The Treasury listed six taxes which it regards as environmental taxes—Climate Change Levy, Aggregates Levy, Landfill Tax, EU Emissions Trading System, Carbon Reduction Commitment and the Carbon Floor Price. As the Chartered Institute of Taxation explained, however, the ONS's 2010 Environmental Accounts also included Fuel Duty, VAT on Fuel Duty, Renewable Energy Obligation, Vehicle Excise Duty and Air Passenger Duty in its definition (and confusingly Air Passenger Duty appeared under an 'environmental tax' heading in the 'budget policy decisions' table in this year's Budget Report).
Paragraph 9, ‘Budget 2011 and Environmental Taxes’, Environmental Audit Committee, 29 June 2011

In a report in yesterday’s Guardian (‘MPs condemn Treasury's green tax strategy - The government has made it difficult to judge whether promises are being met by refusing to define environmental tax’), Joan Walley, chair of the committee, is quoted saying: "[This] is an unacceptable delay... which does not address our pivotal recommendation for clarity about what constitutes an 'environmental tax' and the need for an environmental taxation strategy."

The committee’s call for an environmental tax strategy is in line with the CIOT’s call for an Environmental Tax Framework (modelled on the existing Business Tax Framework) to enable business and others to plan ahead with confidence.

The CIOT, as an organisation, does not take sides in the argument over whether environmental taxes should be higher or lower overall, but we do, through our Environmental Taxes Working Group, contribute to the debate about how government objectives in this area can be most effectively achieved. In particular, we point out how taxes which merely shift pollution elsewhere, or which leave loopholes which can be exploited, or which fail to lead to greener behaviour because of a lack of alternatives, will fail to do their job.

With this in mind, we were pleased to be one of the three bodies most cited in the main body of the June EAC report (along with the Green Fiscal Commission and Campaign for Better Transport) and the most cited in the footnotes, which included five references to our 2009 Green Tax Report, commissioned by Nick Goulding during his time as CIOT President.

George Crozier
CIOT External Relations Manager
Tuesday 7 February 2012


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