Climate Change Levy: are you ready for lift-off?

Average global temperatures are rising, as are sea levels; habitats are changing, and vulnerable species are being lost, and it’s all due to a group of gases that are turning Planet Earth into a greenhouse. In the UK, where climate change is causing warmer winters, and a wetter climate throughout the year, a new consequence of global warming will come into effect on 1st April: the Climate Change Levy.

Whether you regard it as a constructive step forward for renewable
sources of energy, the conservation of fossil fuels, and energy efficiency,
or see it as a form of taxation by stealth which will push energy intensive
industry out of the UK, there is no doubt that it will be going ahead,
and on schedule. But how will it effect you? Do you know whether you are
eligible for exemption or a discounted rate? And if you are, do you know
what you should be doing about it, and by when? Helen André investigates
the ins and outs, and the small print of the UK’s newest tax.

In 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, developed nations
agreed to limit their emissions of greenhouse gases to 1990 levels in
order to prevent “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate
system”. This was followed in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, by a legally binding
commitment by the developed countries to reduce emissions by 5.2% below
1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. However, a number of governments set
themselves higher challenges, including the UK administration which aims
to hit a target of a 12.5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

1992 Earth Summit documents

Kyoto Protocol (requires Adobe Acrobat)

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Earth Centre

How it works
Intended to aid the UK in achieving this goal, the levy is a tax on the
business use of energy, imposed on the supplier, but passed on to the
consumer to the tune of 0.43 pence per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity,
0.15 pence per kWh for gas, 1.17 pence per kWh for coal, and 0.96 pence
per kWh for liquid petroleum gas (LPG). The onus for registration and
payment is put on energy suppliers, with domestic customers protected
from paying the levy by the application of the tax at the time of supply
to the end consumer in industry, commerce and the public sector.

The levy is expected to raise around £1 billion revenue in its first
year, which is to be recycled principally through a 0.3% reduction in
employers’ National Insurance contributions, with £150 million being allocated
for support for energy efficiency and renewables throughout 2001/2. Thus,
the levy is designed to be revenue neutral, merely moving the burden of
taxation from ‘social goods’ to ‘environmental bads’.

“Fuel and electricity
bills are predicted to rise by around 10-15%…. most organisations
can reduce their energy bills by up to 10-20%”

“We cannot take energy for granted,” said Dr David Vincent, Director
of the Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme. “Fossil fuels are a
finite resource, and their use is having a damaging impact on the local,
national and global environments. Moving towards a lower carbon economy
is unavoidable.” He also added that an important part of the Government’s
Climate Change Programme is in helping businesses adjust in order to remain
competitive. “Responding positively to global warming means rethinking
how we can use energy more efficiently and in particular, how to factor
low carbon futures into business investment decisions,” he said.

For those paying the tax, fuel and electricity bills are predicted to rise by around 10-15%, an increase which is intended to set climate change alarm bells ringing in board rooms, and consequently result in increasing energy efficiency, and the purchase of energy from renewable sources. According to the DETR, studies by the Government’s Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme have shown that most organisations can reduce their energy bills by up to 10-20%, predominantly through no or low-cost measures, year after year.

Climate Change: The UK Programme

Climate Change Levy factsheet (requires Adobe Acrobat)

Adobe Acrobat

The New and Renewable Energy Programme

HM Customs and Excise

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Claiming your discount
Energy intensive industries, however, are being given a partial ‘get-out’
clause owing to the needs of their industry, and the Government’s wish
not to push them out of the country, weakening the economy and merely
moving undesirable emissions to another area. As a result, the Government
has set up a process of Climate Change Levy Agreements, where they pledge
to provide an 80% discount from the levy for sectors of industry that
commit to challenging targets for improving energy efficiency or reductions
in carbon emissions.

“One potential problem
facing energy consumers is in identifying whether their activities
qualify as a ‘business’ use of energy”

Companies that wish to take part in climate change agreements need to
contact the relevant trade association, though they do not need to become
a member. They will, however, have to act quickly as discounts in the
levy cannot be claimed retrospectively. Alternatively, queries regarding
joining sector agreements can be addressed to Duncan Egerton at the Department
of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), on 020 7944 4822,
or can be sent by email to [email protected].

A diverse group of industry sectors have already signed up to Climate
Change Levy Agreements with the Government, ranging from the cement industry
and motor manufacturers, to printing and animal feeds. One example of
such an agreement is that taken up by the steel industry in which firms
have agreed to cut their annual energy use by 11.5% by 2010, equating
to an annual saving of up to 18% in carbon dioxide emissions. In order
to manage the agreement for the five steel making companies and the associated
downstream companies, the industry association has established UK Steel
(Environmental) Ltd. Possible energy saving initiatives include a reduction
in gas flare, and improved furnace operation.

Business and Climate Change: UK Advisory Office

Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions information on the Climate Change Levy and Climate Change Agreements

Small Businesses
At the other end of the scale, the smallest businesses, or those using
the least amount of energy, may be classified by Customs and Excise as
domestic supplies, and would therefore be exempt from the levy, under
the de minimis principle, the same as that which is used to calculate
VAT. Electricity supplied to consumers up to a maximum of 1000 kilowatt
hours per month (33 kilowatt hours per day) falls into this category,
together with small quantities of coal or coke (up to one tonne), piped
gas (5 therms/145 kilowatt hours per day, or 150 therms/4,397 kilowatt
hours per month), and liquefied petroleum gas (50 kilogram cylinders,
or a tank capacity of two tonnes or less). This also means that businesses
purchasing fuel for sale on to domestic customers are also exempt from
the levy, though they need to satisfy HM Customs and Excise that this
the case before they obtain the fuel.

Government guide to the levy

Environment and Energy Help Online

However, there will also be a number of discounts and even exemptions
from the levy with no strings attached what so ever. The horticulture
sector will be eligible for a discount of 50% for up to five years, with
natural gas in Northern Ireland being entirely exempt for the same time
period. Other exemptions include certain new forms of renewable energy,
good quality CHP plants, and for electricity used in some electrolytic
processes, such as primary aluminium smelting. On top of this, one of
the bad boys of the environment, oil, which is already subject to excise
duty, will not be taxed, and nor will road fuel gas, heat, steam, or energy
from waste.

“Those paying the lower
VAT rate are likely to qualify for lower levy rates”

One potential problem facing energy consumers is in identifying whether
their activities qualify as a ‘business’ use of energy. The most straightforward
guide to deciding who qualifies for exemption or a reduced rate of the
levy is whether or not they already qualify for a reduced rate of Value
Added Tax (VAT). Those paying the lower VAT rate are likely to qualify
for lower levy rates. However, although the tax has been designed to be
similar to VAT in many ways, it is termed a ‘sticking tax’, which means
that, unlike VAT, businesses will not be able to reclaim it.

Reductions in the tax will be managed through a scheme of annually reviewable
self-certification, the forms for which (known as Supplier Certificate
PP11) are available from the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions (DETR) website, as well as from that of HM Customs and
Excise, or by post from HM Customs and Excise, at CCL COPE (Certification),
Custom House, Furness Quay, Manchester, M5 2XX, telephone number 0161
261 7079/7259/7095. Those hoping to take advantage of exemptions and reductions
from the beginning of April 2001 should ensure that their completed certificates
reach their suppliers by 26 March in order to allow time for processing.
However, those involved in climate change agreements should not send certificates
to their suppliers until they have received certification from the DETR
showing that the facility is covered by an agreement.

For those hoping to qualify as domestic consumers, the classification
includes dwellings; communal residences, such as homes for the elderly
and disabled, hospices, monasteries and convents, and residential accommodation
for schools and universities; and self-catering holiday accommodation,
with garages and subsidiary buildings within close proximity being treated
as the same residential unit. Hospitals and prisons are not exempt from
the levy as they are part of the public sector.

Landlords making profit from renting out accommodation will have the
levy charged on the portion of the energy supply that is subject to the
standard rate of VAT.

Charities, in particular, need to beware that although they may be non-profit
organisations raising money ultimately for philanthropic purposes and
in order to cover their expenses, their activities will be classified
as ‘business’, making them liable to pay the levy, unless the de minimis
rule applies. Activities carried out by charities, which HM Customs and
Excise will consider to be business, include the sale of donated goods;
the hiring out of charity run buildings such as village halls; and the
provision of membership benefits by clubs, associations and other similar
bodies. The Government urges anyone who is not clear as to whether or
not what they are operating is a business, to read VAT
Notice 701/1 Charities

However, all is not lost for charities, as premises that are also being used partly for domestic or ‘non-business’ charity work could be eligible for exemption from the levy, although this must account for at least 60% of the energy use. Such customers need to notify their energy supplier of the percentage of their fuel and power that qualifies as non-business use.

Although a number of schools and educational establishments do qualify for charitable status, such as voluntary aid schools, foundation schools, and city technology colleges, most other schools, colleges, and universities are more likely to have to pay the levy, even if they are maintained by their local education authority.

Government guide on levy reduction or exemption

Customs and Excise, for VAT and CCL information

PP11 Supplier Certificate (requires Adobe Acrobat)

PP10 Supporting Analysis (requires Adobe Acrobat)

Adobe Acrobat

Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme
Another scheme that the UK Government has devised in order to counteract
climate change, is the Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme, designed to
support a number of technologies, including combined heat and power (CHP)
and materials for pipe insulation, which meet the relevant energy efficiency
criteria. Further technologies could be added to the programme subject
to certification and cost-effectiveness, according to the Government.
Formal claims to the scheme can be made after April 2001. The programme
also includes a £50 million fund which is being made available for energy
efficiency and renewables in order to provide advice and audits to small
and medium sized enterprises, promote the development of new sources of
renewable energy, and to encourage the research, development and take
up of low carbon technologies and energy saving measures through a ‘Carbon

Enhanced Capital Allowance Scheme

Further advice
Anyone still confused about how they should be making both energy and
financial savings have at their disposal a plethora of websites containing
information on the Climate Change Levy and other Government schemes. Otherwise,
advice can be obtained from a variety of consultancy companies, such as
Stark Energy Information Systems which uses computer programmes to calculate
optimum energy savings, BRECSU which provides information on energy efficient
building design, or Greenergy, which gives advice on the reduction of
greenhouse gas emissions and runs a levy rebate programme.

UK Government Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme

BRECSU for energy efficient building advice

Stark Energy Information Systems

CHP Club


Rundown of European Union environmental taxes

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